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BibleAmerican Catholicism

Rediscover Catholicism (2010) by Matthew Kelly

Lorin Friesen August 2013

Rediscover Catholicism is being distributed by Catholic churches in US and Canada as part of an outreach program. According to the Dynamic Catholic website, this book is the best-selling Catholic book ever in North America (apart from the Bible). The main purpose of this book and the Dynamic Catholic program is to encourage former Catholics to return to the Church. According to the author Matthew Kelly, there are now more than 30 million former Catholics in the United States alone, which would make ‘former Catholics’ the second largest American Christian denomination (p.285).

My goal in analyzing this book is to gain an understanding of current trends in American Catholicism, as well as compare the thinking of Catholicism with the evangelical Christian mindset with which I am more familiar. Rediscover Catholicism is well-written and contains a number of deep insights. It is clear that the author understands what it means to be Christian.

My previous essay examined American evangelical Christianity. I suggested there that American Christianity, and American thought in general, is characterized by pragmatism, and the philosophy of pragmatism was developed in America in the late 19th century. In the language of mental symmetry, pragmatism uses concrete thought and is driven by the bottom line thinking of practical Contributor thought. Sports and business are two major expressions of practical Contributor thought. In both cases, thought and action are restricted to a limited playing field, guided by a fixed set of well-defined rules and procedures, and driven by the goal of reaching or improving some bottom line.

This same pragmatic focus can be seen in Kelly’s personal life. Sports played a major role in his childhood. “I spent my childhood pursuing excellence on the sporting field. My seven brothers and I were constantly engaged in a variety of sporting endeavors and fiercely competitive. Each day when school was finished, we went to training: tennis, cricket, soccer, swimming, basketball, volleyball, golf, cycling, track, football...On the afternoons when we did not have training, we would test each other’s skills in the backyard of her family home in suburban Sydney, Australia. My father always encouraged my brothers and me to study the champions of each sport we play. Every good coach I have ever trained under, regardless of the sport, has encouraged me to do the same” (p.79).

Kelly has taken the lessons that he learned in sports and applied them to his personal life. “At the time, I thought I was just being trained to be competitive in the sporting arena. Little did I know how important these lessons would become in the arena of life” (p.79).

He has taken the same approach with business. “For as long as I can remember, I have observed and studied extraordinary people and tried to apply their wisdom and techniques to my own life. I did this first as a child in the area of sports and later at business school in the areas of marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship” (p.91).

Kelly currently works as a business consultant. “Today he is an internationally acclaimed speaker, best-selling author, and business consultant...Kelly is also a partner at Floyd consulting, a Chicago-based management consulting firm. His clients include: Pepsi, Procter and Gamble, Chick-fil-A, General Electric, FedEx, HSBC, the Department of Defense, McDonalds, US Bank, 3M, Ernst & Young, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies” (p.318).

Thus, even though Kelly was born and raised in Australia, we can safely conclude that his personal mindset is a reflection of American pragmatism.

As I describe in greater detail elsewhere, mental wholeness uses a combination of concrete thought and abstract thought. Living in a physical body naturally develops concrete thought, as illustrated by the sports in which Kelly was involved when growing up. Reaching mental maturity requires taking a detour away from concrete thought through abstract thought in order to build understanding and then using this understanding to transform concrete thought. Ditch-digging illustrates this detour. Concrete thought grabs a shovel and starts digging. The detour through abstract thought heads to school, learns theory about natural processes, uses this understanding of natural law to design machines, and then builds a machine that can move earth. The result is a transformation of how one digs ditches. Instead of manually removing the dirt with a shovel, one moves levers to control a machine which moves the dirt.

When this detour is followed, then practical Contributor thought becomes integrated with intellectual Contributor thought. Integrated Contributor thought then acts as a mental incarnation that bridges universal with specific. My thesis is that this detour describes the essence of the Christian path, which is explored in detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules.

Explaining briefly, practical Contributor thought is the technical version of concrete thought, as exemplified by games and business. Intellectual Contributor thought is the technical version of abstract thought, as illustrated by logic and math. As the diagram of mental symmetry shows, Contributor thought is an intermediate strategy which plays an essential role in gluing together abstract thought with concrete thought. The computer chip provides a physical illustration of what it requires to use integrated Contributor thought to glue together abstract thought with concrete thought. A computer chip is a concrete object that is controlled by abstract logic. Fabricating a computer chip requires following a precise set of steps in which cleanliness, precision, and ingredients are controlled to a ridiculous extent. Computer chips are made in semiconductor fabrication plants, which currently cost several billion dollars each to construct.

Pragmatic thought skips the middle step of going through abstract thought and jumps straight from the start to finish. In terms of ditch digging, pragmatism learns a little theory about moving earth and operating machines, and then buys an earthmoving machine and starts digging ditches. In other words, instead of integrating practical Contributor with intellectual Contributor, pragmatism remains within practical Contributor thought while accepting input from intellectual Contributor thought.

Notice the difference between pure concrete thought and pragmatism. Concrete thought uses only practical Contributor thinking and does not recognize the existence of intellectual Contributor thought. Pragmatism, in contrast, recognizes intellectual Contributor thought and follows the advice of intellectual Contributor thought while remaining within practical Contributor thought. Pragmatism accepts advice from other sources that use intellectual Contributor thought because this advice supercharges concrete thought. For instance, a mechanical digger operated by a single individual can replace entire army of workers equipped with shovels. As a result, pragmatism highly values the consultant who can provide tips for enhancing practical Contributor thought.

Pragmatism is also different than salvation. Pragmatism accepts help from abstract thought but does not enter abstract thought. It buys ditch digging equipment from those who design and build this equipment but it does not design and build equipment itself. Salvation, in contrast, leaves concrete thought to enter abstract thought and then re-enters concrete thought with a new paradigm. Pragmatism can supercharge concrete thought while salvation transforms concrete thought.

For instance, Kelly is very successful as a business consultant, whereas I have never been able to use the theory of mental symmetry as a basis for conducting business seminars. The difference is that Kelly’s advice is compatible with pragmatism; it improves the functioning of practical Contributor thought without questioning its existence. Mental symmetry, in contrast, questions the very culture of business and sport as inadequate, and suggests that intellectual Contributor thought should be used to transform practical Contributor thought and not just improve it. Instead of telling the businessman how to conduct business better, mental symmetry suggests that business itself needs to be transformed.

In Christian terminology, this is known as original sin. In the language of mental symmetry, the structure of concrete thought is fundamental flawed. Childish personal identity does not just need to be improved but rather taken apart and reassembled, a painful process known as ‘dying to self’.

Original sin is a Catholic doctrine. However, I do not find the concept of original sin being described in Rediscover Catholicism. The concept of sin is there, but not original sin. In other words, Christianity is viewed as a process that improves natural ability but does not transform it. In Kelly’s words, “If 67 million Catholics in the United States stepped it up a notch, something incredible would happened” (p.18).

Kelly recognizes that personal improvement deals with attitude and not just behavior. “Most people do not identify with sin because we see ourselves and others is generally good. This allows us to overlook the deeply rooted nature center and attitudes, our habitual ways of thinking, and our orientation to life. But Jesus did not come simply to heal us of our external behaviors. He wants to reorient our attitudes, behaviors, and the way we think” (p.152).

He says that sin is self-destructive and disordered (the same definition used by mental symmetry), but he appears to think that deep down a person does not have a sin nature. “Every day I find myself doing things that are self-destructive and that make me a lesser person. I say things that hurt others, or I hurt others by not saying things. When that happens, you can be sure the things I am thinking are giving birth to those words and actions. These are the thoughts, words, and actions that deviate from the natural order and separate me from the peace of knowing I am contributing positively to the common good of the unfolding universe. The strange thing is, deep within I do not want to think, say, and do these things. I do not want to be the lesser person; I want to be the best version of myself” (p.149).

He also views Christian salvation as building upon natural strengths while transforming natural weaknesses. “Your weaknesses are the key to the unimaginable bigger future that God has envisioned for you. Your strengths are probably already bearing all the fruit they can. They will continue to bear those good fruits in your life, but at some point they will begin to plateau. Your richer, more abundant future is intimately linked to your weaknesses” (p.146).

He looks to athletes as illustrations of personal salvation. “Both Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have an incredible ability to look at their game and identify both their strengths and their weaknesses. Once they have done this, they work tirelessly to make their strengths impenetrable and transform their weaknesses into strengths. A world-class athlete would never even consider the idea of ignoring a weakness...This process of identifying strengths and weaknesses and transforming weaknesses into strengths is classic Catholic spirituality” (p.145).

And he fantasizes about the Eucharist supercharging the athlete. “I often wonder as I watch great athletes compete, knowing that they are not Catholic, how much better they would perform if they believed Christ was present in the Eucharist and they could receive him right before race. What is true for these athletes is also true for lives. There is incredible power in the Eucharist” (p.208).

Kelly goes beyond normal secular business and sports in two major areas. First, he suggests that the bottom line is internal character and not just external results. This is a significant point. Second, he suggests facing personal weaknesses and transforming them and not just focusing upon personal strengths. This is also very important. But he does not question the structure of business and sports itself.

Kelly’s pragmatic Christianity can help Tiger Woods play better golf. Mental symmetry, in contrast, asks why hitting a ball with a stick is such a big deal. Why do people give so much money and attention to the task of knocking a ball into a hole? There is nothing wrong with playing golf. There is something wrong with turning golf, or any other professional sport, into a multi-billion-dollar national obsession. Life is far more than knocking balls into holes. Tiger Woods may be a champion at golf, but as Kelly himself admits, Tiger is not a champion in his personal life. In fact, some have suggested that he should change his first name from Tiger to cheatah.

In Kelly’s words, “Some people have suggested that I should not speak about Tiger Woods anymore because of the struggles he has had in his personal life. And while he has certainly demonstrated a lack of character in some areas of his life, my reason for writing about him here is unchanged. I would like to be as good at being a Catholic as Tiger Woods is playing golf. I would like you to be as well. And if Tiger Woods can teach me something about living my life more fully, I want to learn it. I think every parish could use more parishioners who approach their practice of the faith with the discipline and commitment that Tiger Woods approaches golf with” (p.144).

And that, I suggest, sums up the weakness of Kelly’s pragmatic Christianity. He views practical Contributor thought, with its narrowminded focus upon some concrete goal, as the ideal to follow. According to Kelly, Tiger may have ‘demonstrated a lack of character in some areas’ but the basic mindset of Tiger is still the model to follow. Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that Tiger’s conduct as a person is fundamentally flawed, and that he is using practical Contributor thought to improve some peripheral aspect of his personal existence, while allowing his discipline and commitment to avoid dealing with more fundamental character flaws. Fixing fundamental character flaws requires dying to self.

This inherent weakness is illustrated perfectly by a story in Kelly’s book. He tells about a boy named Michael who instructs his father, “Dad, if you really love me, you will buy me a $92,000 red Porsche for my 18th birthday.” The son is disgusted when he receives a Bible from his father instead. The next day his father suffers a massive heart attack, and the son spends seven hours sitting at the bedside of his unconscious father. When the son goes out to grab a sandwich, his father dies. Returning home, the son weeps uncontrollably and eventually opens the Bible that his father had given him. Inside the front cover of the Bible, he finds that his father has written, “Dear Michael. Within these pages, you will find the answers to all of life’s questions, and the secrets to all of life’s success. With love on your 18th birthday, dad.” Thumbing through the Bible, the son discovers that his father had enclosed a check for $92,000. (p.223)

On the one hand, the son experiences some personal salvation through religion. He receives a Bible, goes through personal suffering, and learns to appreciate the Bible. On the other hand, what remains unsaved and unchanged is the childish nature of the son. It is not appropriate for a son to demand a $92,000 car from his father, and a wise father would not succumb to such emotional blackmail.

Before we continue, let us summarize what we know so far. We have seen that pragmatic thought learns some theory and then skips to the final stage of applying this theory. This means that pragmatic thought never leaves the concrete world of experiences. We have already seen one implication of pragmatic thought. Childish personal identity is built upon emotional experiences from the concrete physical world. Because pragmatic thought remains within the concrete realm of experiences, it is capable of improving childish identity but not totally transforming it.

Pragmatic thought can only skip the middle step if it acquires its understanding from somewhere else. In terms of our ditch digging illustration, someone else must gain an understanding of natural law and use this understanding to build the digging machines which pragmatics thought purchases and operates. I have suggested that American evangelical Christianity acquires its ‘understanding’ from the Bible. The problem is that the Bible has never been fully understood—that is why I put the word understanding in quotes. I should emphasize that I am not suggesting that theologians have an inadequate understanding of the Bible. Rather, I am reporting that theologians themselves—including church fathers—claim that core Christian doctrines are mysteries and paradoxes. Therefore, American evangelical Christianity acquires its understanding from blind faith in the Bible, treating it as a sort of codebook that has been revealed by God and is applied in the country of America.

Blind faith uses emotional status to mesmerize Perceiver thought into believing what is true. For instance, if father tells his child a fact, the child knows that this fact is true because of the respect which he has for his father. This type of rote learning occurs naturally in the mind of the child. Similarly, the Bible believing evangelical accepts the Perceiver facts of the Bible as absolute truth because he believes that the Bible was revealed by God, the Most Important Person.

Catholicism, in contrast, acquires its ‘understanding’ from the Catholic Church. Kelly makes this distinction clear. “Most Catholics have been cornered by an overzealous Christian in the workplace or supermarket. They immediately start quoting Scripture, and often times their well-argued ideas leave their Catholic targets tired, confused, filled with doubts, and feeling spiritually inadequate. Chances are, if the conversation proceeds to any length, they will approach the idea that the Bible is the one and only source of inspiration, direction, and revelation. This of course, is a direct attack upon the Catholic Church. It may be carefully masked or subtly presented. Those presenting the idea may not even be aware that it is an attack on Catholicism. But as Catholics, we believe that both the ‘Sacred Scriptures and sacred tradition form one sacred deposit of the word of God.’ God reveals himself in nature, he reveals himself in the Scriptures, and he reveals himself in the life of the Church” (p.225).

Catholicism and Server Actions

I suggest that for the Catholic Church, what really matters is not the doctrine that one believes but rather the sacrament that one performs. Thus, the primary attribute is Server action and not Perceiver belief.

Kelly explains some of the ways that the Catholic Church emphasizes Server action. Discipline is the ability to control one’s actions. “Discipline awakens us from our philosophical stupor and refines every aspect of the human person. Discipline does not enslave or stifle us; rather, it sets us free to soar to unimagined heights...The life and teachings of Jesus Christ invite us to embrace this life-giving discipline” (p.40).

One achieves excellence through the development of better habits. “Those who excel just have better habits. If you dissect their lives, you discover that they fill their days, weeks, and months with habits that are helping them to excel in their chosen field and become the-best-version-of-themselves. Most people fill their lives with habits that are self-destructive and that cause them to become less than God created them to be. It is interesting and important to note that the habits that diminish us can be acquired with virtually no effort and are usually the result of acting without any real thought, while the habits that allow us to celebrate and defend the-best-version-of-ourselves require real effort and openness to the grace of God” (p.121).

One is transformed by changing habits. “Our lives change when our habits change. I have been convinced of the power of the habit of regular confession in my own life, and I would like to encourage you to make it a spiritual habit in your life” (p.160). Notice how confession is viewed as a habit—a set of Server actions that are regularly repeated.

Changing habits is a gradual process. “Character is built little by little, over days, weeks, months, and years, with thousands of small and seemingly insignificant acts of discipline” (p.40).

One learns by hearing about the Server actions of others. “There is no medium more powerful than stories to convey a message. We have the stories, but we are not sharing them. Our 2000 year Catholic history is full of extraordinary stories about ordinary people who opened their hearts to God and allowed the life, teachings, and person of Jesus Christ to transform them” (p.131).

Saints have better habits than normal people. “Earlier we said that the difference between the saints and those who been less successful in living the Christian life was that the saints affixed their singleness of purpose on doing the will of God and that they had better habits. These habits were not only external habits but also internal habits. One of those critical internal habits was the habit of the mind we call contemplation. Too often we just let our thoughts wander. God invites us to focus our thoughts, and the discipline of daily prayer teaches us how to direct those thoughts toward the higher things” (p.176).

Comparing the evangelical approach with the Catholic approach, which is better, blind faith in the Bible or the development of good habits? I suggest that neither approach is complete and that both approaches have strengths and weaknesses. In order to evaluate these two approaches one must look at history and cognitive development. Notice that I am focusing here upon attitude and not content. I am comparing the Perceiver method of placing blind faith in a holy book with the Server method of acquiring better habits.

As Kelly points out, the printing press made Protestant Christianity possible. “If you had lived prior to the invention of the printing press, like the men and women of the first 1500 years of Christianity, you would have had no access whatsoever to a physical Bible. This is not because the church wanted to keep people ignorant, nor was it because church leaders did not want people reading the Scriptures. It was simply because every single copy of the Bible was an original manuscript that a Catholic monk or friar had laboriously copied onto pages of parchment or vellum. For a millennium and a half Christians learned about the stories that fill the Scriptures from sermons at Mass, by seeing them in stained-glass windows, or by watching them performed in mystery plays” (p.228).

Thus, I suggest that we are dealing with different methods of learning that result from different levels of education and different technological capabilities. If one examines Christian doctrine from a cognitive viewpoint, then the Bible makes eminent sense. That is the general thesis of God, Theology & Cognitive Modules. But in order to take a cognitive viewpoint, neurology must know about the structure and function of the brain, psychology must understand how people think, and computers must teach us what it means to program thought and behavior. This background knowledge makes it possible to examine Christianity from a cognitive perspective—which is what I am attempting to do. Before the late 20th century, taking a cognitive perspective was impossible, because the requisite background knowledge did not exist.

As Kelly states, the printing press made Protestant Christianity possible, because everyone must have a copy of the Bible if Christianity is to be based upon the Bible. Before the printing press, most people gained their knowledge of Christianity through stained-glass windows, religious rituals, and morality plays. There was no other option, because the average person did not know how to read and did not have access to books.

Catholic Christianity itself was preceded by Orthodox Christianity (which I analyze in the next essay). The icon, or religious image, is the primary tool for conveying Christian doctrine in Orthodox Christianity. This was the only option that existed at that time, because the institution of the Catholic Church had not yet been established.

Wikipedia describes the difference between Catholic and Orthodox this way. “The Eastern Orthodox teach that none of the Church Fathers accepted or embraced Aristotle’s metaphysics, so the scholasticism in the West based on Aristotle, is simply absent in the East. Meaning that for one to be a theologian one does not seek to obtain a degree from a University (as in the old pagan society and the Academies of Greece) to become a scholar, rather one obtains the vision of God by way of ascetic practice. Roman Catholic theologians hold as a theological conclusion (sententia certa), but not as a matter of dogma (de fide), that ‘our natural knowledge of God in this world is not an immediate, intuitive cognition, but a mediate, abstractive knowledge, because it is attained through the knowledge of creatures’ and that ‘our knowledge of God here below is not proper (cognitio propria) but analogical (cognitio analoga or analogica).’” In the language of mental symmetry, Catholic thinking uses abstract thought to understand God, whereas Orthodox belief bases its knowledge of God in Mercy experience.

If we go back one step further, then we arrive at the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul and the other apostles. This is where the story becomes un-natural. The words of Jesus and the writings of Paul describe with great accuracy the path of reaching mental wholeness; they make sense when viewed from a cognitive perspective. But Jesus claimed to come from heaven and Paul claimed that he was taught by heaven. In contrast, the teachings of Orthodox Christianity, which immediately followed, do not make sense and are not based upon understanding. Again, this is not me saying this, but rather Orthodox Christianity. First, Orthodox Christianity says that it is not really possible to describe the attributes of God, but rather one must at least partially limit oneself to describing what God is not, otherwise known as apophatic theology. Second, Orthodox Christianity is based upon the veneration of icons and it downplays the use of abstract thought and understanding.

Putting this together, the process began with a book that was supernaturally clever. This was then followed by three main stages of cognitive development; during each stage the average person viewed and acquired Christian doctrine in a different manner. Orthodox Christianity uses primarily concrete thought and not abstract thought; it venerates symbolic pictures and knows God experientially. Catholic Christianity uses abstract thought, building upon the actions of the sacraments and the tradition of the institutional church. Protestant Christianity focuses upon doctrine based upon blind faith in the Bible. Notice that each stage is more abstract than the previous one and places a greater emphasis upon understanding. Mental development in the child follows a similar process.

If one understands how the human mind functions, then both the content of the Bible as well as the process of understanding the Bible make sense. Looking back at the historical progression with the hindsight of understanding, one can also see that the approach taken by each step has warped the message of Christianity in a different manner. For instance, in the essay on evangelical American Christianity, I have described many of the ways in which an attitude of blind faith alters the biblical concept of God. One also concludes that the Bible is too clever to have been written at the time that it was. Normally, a book is best understood by its authors and those who are closest to its authors. However, the New Testament was written 2000 years before it became possible to fully understand the New Testament. Similarly, if one examines mental development, one concludes that reaching mental wholeness requires an understanding that can only be acquired after one reaches mental wholeness.

Humans solve this chicken-and-egg problem through the use of education. Adults who have understanding teach it to children, who accept it blindly and then retroactively use critical thinking to analyze what they initially swallowed blindly. Similarly, it appears necessary to postulate that some supernatural source revealed biblical truth to humanity, which accepted it blindly and is gradually using critical thinking to retroactively analyze what was initially swallowed blindly. This hypothesis is explored in much greater depth in the article on Orthodox Christianity.

I have suggested that each of these stages warps the message of Christianity in a different way. The flip side of this coin is that each of these stages preserves a different aspect of the complete message of Christianity. The Orthodox church focuses upon the Mercy aspect of Christianity, which involves bringing health to Mercy mental networks—taking ‘the bird with the broken wing’ and nursing it back to health. As Western society illustrates, the natural tendency is to ignore and/or suppress Mercy thought when advancing cognitively. In contrast, personal salvation must always include Mercy thought, because the core of personal identity resides within Mercy thought. While it is good to include Mercy thought, mental symmetry suggests that childish identity needs to be transformed and not just ‘brought back to health’.

As we have seen, the Catholic Church focuses upon the Server aspect of Christianity, which means changing the way that one acts. Thus, Catholic Christianity is more aware of the process of personal salvation. The danger lies in regarding Christianity merely as a gradual step-by-step process of improving personal identity rather than transforming it.

The evangelical church emphasizes the Perceiver aspect of Christianity—holding on to correct doctrine and shining the light of truth on personal identity. Evangelical Christianity realizes that salvation requires personal transformation—not just acquiring new Server habits but becoming a new Perceiver category of person. But evangelical Christianity often views this personal salvation as a sort of ‘teleporting’ from sinner to saint, and does not realize that personal transformation is also a Server process which leads indirectly to the development of new personal habits. In the words of the apostle James, faith without works is dead.

Finally, a cognitive approach to Christianity emphasizes Teacher thought, which means describing Christianity as a general rational theory. The danger here is to treat Christianity merely as an abstract, verbal understanding. Understanding Christianity makes it possible to follow the path of Christianity more intelligently and more universally, but understanding what it means to become a whole person is only one stage in the process of becoming a whole person.

Mental symmetry suggests that the Perceiver aspect of Christianity comes first and is followed by the Server aspect. This is brought out by apostle Paul in Romans 5. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Notice how this passage begins by talking about ‘justification by faith’ leading to ‘peace with God’. Justification is a Protestant concept that involves the doctrine of atonement, which is analyzed in another essay. This is then followed by a sequence of steps that describes the formation of new habits—the aspect upon which Catholicism focuses.

It is interesting to note that each of these stages is convinced that it uses the only legitimate method of learning about God. Kelly has already told us how the Protestant church bases its belief upon the Bible. Regarding the Catholic Church, Kelly states that “Through the teachings of the church, the people of every land for two thousand years have learned about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The people of every place and time have been encouraged to believe and do all that Jesus taught. In many cases, this great work has been achieved in all corners the globe without a written or printed Bible. With this clear and concise understanding of the history of the Scriptures, the Protestant theory of sola scriptura, or ‘the Bible and the Bible alone,’ self-destructs into the most monumental case of well-argued nonsense in the history of humanity” (p.229).

Notice that Kelly is basing his argument upon the notion of continuity. He rejects the Protestant view of sola scriptura because it did not exist before the printing press, while promoting the Catholic Church because it was always there. However, the argument of continuity actually favors the Orthodox Church. “The Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles, begun at the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit in the year 33 A.D. ...The bishops of the Orthodox Churches trace unbroken succession to the very apostles themselves, therefore ultimately receiving their consecrations from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Kelly also insists that the Catholic Church has the right to interpret the Bible. “This is why the Catholic Church has, in her wisdom, so vigorously defended her sole right to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures throughout history. The living voice of the Catholic Church stands as a beacon for all men and women of goodwill, and announces the life and teachings of Jesus Christ with tradition in one hand and the Scriptures in the other. Ultimately, interpreting the Scriptures comes down to a question of authority. It perhaps is no surprise that the greatest obstacle to Christian unity is also the question of authority. The greatest challenge that faces us, as Christians, in our quest for unity is to free so many from the blind subservience to a book and deliver them to loving obedience to God alive and present in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” (p.230).

Let us examine Kelly’s logic. I suggest that it contains an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, the goal is to ‘interpret the meaning of the Scriptures’. In order to interpret the meaning of words, one must understand these words—one must use Teacher thought. On the other hand, Kelly is saying that ‘interpreting the Scriptures comes down to a question of authority’. Authority uses Mercy thought and not Teacher thought.

Notice the difference that understanding makes. Suppose that someone who only understands a little English tries to write something in English. His English will obviously be full of errors. I was continually reminded of this when living in Korea. Similarly, if a person only partially understands Christian doctrine, then he will tend to make doctrinal errors when interpreting the Bible. If no one fully understands English, then the only way to write reasonably correct English is by comparing what one writes with other samples of written English. Likewise, if an adequate understanding of the Bible does not exist, then the best way to come up with reasonably correct Christian doctrine is by examining Catholic tradition and the writings of the church fathers. Anyone who attempts to develop Christian doctrine on his own will probably make substantial errors. However, a native speaker of English who understands the English language is a far more authoritative expert than numerous scholars who only know a smattering of the language. Again, I know this from personal experience having lived as a native English speaker in Korea. Going further, if I understand English as a native speaker, then I will be able to read and speak the language reasonably correctly without having to turn to either tradition or the experts, and if these English words describe something in the real world, then I can check these words by comparing their meanings with the real world. In the language of logic, I can use internal consistency and correspondence to check my language.

In simple terms, if I do not understand what I am saying adequately, or if what I am saying has no basis in reality, then the only way to reinforce my message is by imposing my authority. But if I understand my words and if these words describe reality, then I can back up my words by pointing to reality. Thus, I suggest that it is a contradiction for the ‘Catholic Church, in her wisdom, to vigorously defend her sole right to interpret the meaning of Scriptures’, because the attitude of vigorously defending is inconsistent with the attitude of interpreting meaning.

In essence, I am modifying Thomas Aquinas’ distinction between revealed theology and natural theology. Aquinas suggested that there was some overlap between these two. I am suggesting that there is sufficient overlap to build a systematic theology. On the one hand, cognitive science can be used to construct a model of the mind and this cognitive model can be used to derive at least most Christian doctrine. On the other hand, the mind is only capable of gaining an accurate understanding of itself if its thinking is first seeded with revealed theology. In other words, revealed theology makes sane thinking possible and sane thinking then discovers the reasonableness of revealed theology. This process of re-examining revealed theology does not occur overnight but may take several millennia to fully unfold.

Catholicism and Cognitive Mechanisms

Kelly goes to great lengths to present Catholic belief and tradition in the language of psychology and rational understanding, similar to the approach taken by mental symmetry. This makes it easy to use mental symmetry to analyze and evaluate these points.

Kelly defines personal salvation in psychological terms. “God has a dream for you and a plan for your life. He wants to deliver you from everything that stands in the way of becoming the-best-version-of-yourself. Throughout this book we are going to speak a lot about becoming the-best-version-of-yourself. With this term I am not suggest doing a narcissistic, self-seeking approach to life. Rather, I am inviting you to a dynamic collaboration with God. It is in and through this collaboration that we become the-best-version-of-ourselves, in which the loving nature of God is most present” (p.46).

Mental symmetry agrees that the goal of personal salvation is to become the-best-version-of-yourself. In the language of mental symmetry, personal salvation occurs when practical Contributor thought takes personal identity from its current state to a better state. Notice that this is a psychological definition of salvation and not a religious definition. Mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to use psychological language to describe Christian salvation—if one includes both practical and intellectual Contributor thought. However, Kelly describes personal salvation from a purely pragmatic perspective, presenting the work of God as a plan used by practical Contributor thought: “God has a dream for you and a plan for your life.” It is interesting to note that Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws have the same pragmatic starting point: “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” As we have seen, pragmatic personal salvation improves identity without transforming it, and it has to receive its content from some other source.

The source of these missing elements can be seen in the following quote. “The message the Church conveys is a tough one to deliver. At one time or another, we have all had the difficulty of delivering a message about the importance of discipline. And yet, the Church consistently delivers this message, because the Church is deeply rooted in an understanding of what is required for the human person to thrive and flourish. Do not miss this: the Church has a vision of wholeness and holiness for the human person, and everything the Church does should help her members to become more perfectly what God created them to be” (p.242).

Notice that the Church (spelled in capital letters to indicate the Catholic Church) is mentioned five times in this paragraph. The Church understands what is needed to reach personal wholeness, the Church conveys this message to others, and the Church helps its members to experience God’s salvation. Thus, the Church provides the content which pragmatic salvation lacks.

Compare this with the attitude of evangelical Christianity. It also takes a pragmatic approach to Christianity. But instead of filling in the missing content with the Catholic Church, it fills in the missing content with blind faith in the Bible, which Kelly calls ‘the most monumental case of well-argued nonsense in the history of humanity’.

In contrast, Kelly promotes what the typical evangelical Christian would call ‘the most monumental case of well-argued nonsense in the history of humanity’. “I believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, and that he is present in a very unique and powerful way in every tabernacle, in every Catholic Church around the world. I think his presence makes a difference. How could it not?” (p.187).

Kelly believes that the Eucharist has magical power. “Do you experience the wonder? Are you able to look beyond what appear to be routine actions of the Mass to the timeless meaning? Do you sense the mystery and power of receiving and consuming Christ in the Eucharist? Do you marvel at the fact? If we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, then the power unleashed within us by the consumption of the Eucharist is immeasurable. I often wonder as I watch great athletes compete, knowing that they are not Catholic, how much better they would perform if they believed Christ was present in the Eucharist and they could receive him right before a race” (p.207).

Mental symmetry suggests that both the Catholic and evangelical viewpoints are inadequate because they are both using something external to substitute for missing internal content. The evangelical approach attaches special significance to the specific words of the Bible, and I have met many evangelical Christians who believe that there is some sort of magical power in proclaiming the words of the Bible. But what is special is not the words of the Bible but rather the content of the Bible. The evangelical Christian knows this because he goes to great lengths to translate the words of the Bible into different languages, using different words to convey the same meaning.

Similarly, the Eucharist has significant psychological meaning, because personal salvation occurs when the plans of practical Contributor thought are applied to personal identity within Mercy thought. Without this mental identification, Contributor plans will save things but not people, and personal identity will try to preserve itself rather than being saved. One often sees this distinction when a male Contributor person marries a female Mercy person—one of the most common marriage combinations. The male Contributor focuses upon acquiring possessions and gaining power, while the female Mercy attempts to preserve experiences, objects, and relationships that have personal significance. Personal salvation requires a combination of these two approaches.

Kelly agrees that the Eucharist has internal power which must be internally enabled. “These moments of reflection after receiving the Eucharist can be extremely powerful if we make ourselves present to them. The fruits of Holy Communion include unity with Jesus, nourishment for the spiritual life, hunger for virtue, the desire to do the will of God, cleansing from past sins, fanning the flames of Christian love, grace to avoid sin in the future, sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and a desire to know God more intimately” (p.215).

Taking the Eucharist before a race could affect the performance of a runner, because athletes are well known for using good luck charms and these can have a positive psychological effect.

As I mentioned, practical Contributor thought can bring some salvation to personal identity. However, practical Contributor thought that is integrated with intellectual Contributor thought and is backed up by a mental concept of God can bring total salvation to personal identity. Mental symmetry suggests that a mental concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. Catholicism replaces the internal connection between personal identity and practical Contributor thought with the consuming of bread and wine, and it replaces a universal God with the universality of the Mass. “The Mass is the most powerful prayer in human history. At every moment of every day, the Mass is taking place somewhere, and we (the Catholic Church) are praying for the entire human family. This is really quite beautiful if you stop and think about” (p.212). As I have suggested elsewhere, whenever an action, such as taking the Eucharist, is repeated by millions of people around the world for thousands of years, then this action will feel universal.

Mental symmetry suggests that it is both healthy and imperative to analyze religion from a cognitive perspective. Thus, Kelly should be applauded for using psychology to analyze Catholic doctrine and practice. But following this approach uncovers a deeper question which Kelly does not address and quite possibly does not realize. A version of this deeper question became apparent to me when using mental symmetry to analyze biblical doctrine. If the goal of Christianity is to become mentally whole, or in Kelly’s words to become the-best-version-of-myself, then real Christianity is not to be found in either blind belief in the Bible or in disciplined adherence to the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Instead, what really matters is following the steps that are required to reach mental wholeness. Belief in the Bible or adherence to Catholic practice is only valuable to the extent that it encourages individuals to follow this path. And the more that one understands the path of personal salvation, the less one needs the external crutches of blind faith in the Bible or blind submission to the Catholic Church. This does not mean that one abandons the Bible or the church. Rather, it means that one will derive the least benefit if one approaches the Bible and the church blindly, while one will be benefited the most by approaching them from the viewpoint of pursuing mental wholeness.

Saying this more bluntly, explaining the Bible makes it possible to go beyond the attitude of sola scriptura, and explaining Catholic practice makes it possible to go beyond the sacraments of the Catholic Church. This has nothing to do with the accuracy of the Bible or the validity of Catholic sacraments. Even if the Bible contains the very word of God and Catholic sacraments symbolize the essence of personal salvation, the method of blind faith and the method of sacrament are inadequate and will end up twisting the message of Christianity. The fundamental error lies in equating specific with general. The evangelical Christian says that the Bible contains universal truth, but then bases this truth in the specific words of a specific book.

Similarly, Kelly says that the practices of Catholicism have universal applicability. “This vision of the human person is critical in our development as individuals, communities, nations, and an entire human family. The reason is because our position on everything else flows from this vision of the human person. Our position on healthcare, Social Security, education, human sexuality, and the role of work, business and economics, and so many other things all flow from this primary vision we have about the purpose of man. The church’s message stands so counter to that of the present culture because the church is driven by this incredible vision for the human person” (p.243).

But these universal principles are based in a specific physical institution. The paragraph before the one just quoted states that “The Church has a vision of wholeness and holiness for the human person, and everything the Church does should help her members to become more perfectly what God created them to be. This vision of the human person is critical in our development...”(p.242). Notice how Kelly makes a jump from the specific vision and practices of the Catholic Church to universal applicability.

Saying this another way, what makes the Bible a source of Perceiver truth? Is absolute truth true because it is contained in the Bible, or is the Bible true because it describes universal truth? Using physics as an example, is the law of gravity true because it is contained within a physics textbook, or is the physics textbook true because it accurately describes the law of gravity? Likewise, is biblical doctrine true because it is described in the Bible or is it true because it accurately describes the path that leads to mental wholeness?

Similarly, what makes the Catholic Church a source of healthy Server actions? Do Catholic discipline and sacrament lead to life because they are practiced by the Catholic Church, or is the Catholic Church a source of life because it practices disciplines and sacraments that lead to life?

This contrast can be seen in Kelly’s analysis of prayer. “Prayer should spring forth from the daily events of our lives. We also need a time of focused prayer each day, a time set aside from everything else, when we give our undivided attention to God. Does this time have to be spent the church? The short answer is no. But allow me to pose another question: Where is the best place to spend your daily prayer time? ...When I am able to get to a church for my daily prayer time, my prayer seems more focused and fruitful. I thought long and hard about why this is and I have reached two conclusions. One is a very natural reason. The other is the most astonishing spiritual reality our faith has to offer. The first is that our churches are quiet and designed for prayer. They lend themselves easily to the spiritual, and provide a place set apart... The second reason I think my daily prayer time seems more effective when I am able to spend the time in the church is the supernatural reason. I believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist and that he is present in a very unique and powerful way in every tabernacle, and every Catholic Church around the world” (p.187).

If a mental concept of God is based in a general understanding in Teacher thought, and if words form the basic building blocks for Teacher thought, then bringing ‘the daily events of our lives’ to God in verbal prayer is a very important aspect of constructing a mental concept of God. That is a cognitive principle that is consistent with Christian doctrine. Similarly, as Kelly mentions, it is much easier to focus upon internal understanding in a quiet place. That also is a simple cognitive principle. And we have just seen that the Eucharist represents an important cognitive aspect of the process of personal development.

But why does one have to pray in a Catholic Church and why does one have to celebrate the Catholic Mass? As Kelly states, this may have been the best alternative before the invention of the printing press, but that does not mean that it is the best alternative today. Notice that I am not suggesting that prayer or the Eucharist are wrong. In contrast, I suggest that both have cognitive significance. I am also not suggesting that prayer and the Eucharist have only cognitive power. It is quite possible that there is a spiritual realm that exists in addition to the cognitive. I am also not suggesting that it is wrong to pray in a Catholic Church or celebrate the Catholic mass. Instead, I am suggesting that prayer and the Eucharist are important because they have universal significance and not because they are Catholic. Theoretically, this should mean the same thing because the word ‘catholic’ means universal.

That brings us to the topic of Platonic forms, which have been discussed elsewhere. In brief, a Platonic form is an idealized, imaginary object or experience that represents the essence of some collection of real objects or experiences. For instance, the shape of all round things is represented by the Platonic form of a perfect circle. A Platonic form has two primary properties. On the one hand, it is an imaginary image that does not exist. For instance, there is no such thing as a perfect physical circle; every physical circle is imperfect, though some circles are less imperfect than other circles. On the other hand, a Platonic form is based in many real objects that do exist. For instance, in order to acquire the Platonic form of a circle, a person must first experience many real circles.

In the language of mental symmetry, Mercy thought remembers experiences, Perceiver thought organizes these experiences into categories, Teacher thought works out the fundamental essence of the category, and a Platonic form is how Mercy thought views the result. Saying this another way, a Platonic form is imaginary because Mercy memories which came from the external world are being modified by Teacher thought; a Platonic form is ideal because Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity; a Platonic form embodies the essence of many specific Mercy experiences because Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity.

Now let us turn to Kelly’s theme of becoming the-best-version-of-yourself. You are not currently the-best-version-of-yourself. Instead, the-best-version-of-yourself is something which does not yet exist. But how can a person follow a goal which does not exist?

One way is to try to emulate successful people who do exist. Kelly mentions this option. “For as long as I can remember, I have observed and studied extraordinary people and tried to apply their wisdom and techniques to my own life. I did this first as a child in the area of sports and later at business school in the areas of marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship. From the very beginning I have done this with my speaking and writing, and ultimately, I have observed those who have had remarkable success in the area of spirituality” (p.90).

Notice three things. First, Kelly is describing this as a psychological principle which he first applied in secular life and then extended to Christianity. Second, even though Kelly’s theme is becoming the best-version-of-yourself, what he is really describing is copying others, which is quite different. For instance, a cat which tries to bark like a dog is not being the-best-version-of-itself, but is probably suffering from a medical condition. Third, even though Kelly is trying to copy extraordinary people, he is still copying others.

The tendency to copy others is brought out in the following quote. “None of us realize how much we influence others. Everything you do, people are watching, and everything you say, people are listening to. The influence of your words and actions is contributing to the way they live their lives. In A Call to Joy, I wrote, “You will learn more from your friends than you will from books. Choose your friends wisely” (p.126).

Kelly then applies the concept of copying others to the Catholic saints. “This is why the saints are such treasures. They may have lived in other places and times, but they can be true friends to you and me today. I would rather spend a couple of hours with Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila than with some of my contemporaries getting drunk on Friday night. I would much rather spend time with dead people who inspire me to celebrate the-best-version-of-myself than with living people who lead me to be just a shadow of all God created me to be. I promise you, it is better to spend time with dead people who bring you to life than live people who lead you to death” (p.126).

It may sound strange to suggest being friends with dead people, but this does force a person to go beyond physical experience to internal imagination.[1] We have seen that practical Contributor thought improves experiences, and the Contributor person often talks about pursuing a plan of self-improvement. However, what this usually means in practice is acquiring more of something that already exists, such as more money, a bigger business, a bigger house, a newer car, a trophy spouse, and so on. Copying someone who no longer is alive requires the use of imagination, which makes it mentally possible to transcend current physical reality.

Kelly applies copying others to following Jesus. “Jesus did not want people to fall down helplessly before him and worship him. He was, of course, worthy of worship, but he wanted the highest form of worship: Jesus wanted people to imitate him. He did not come to solve all our problems; he came to show us the way. He came to show us that when we cooperate with God and with each other we become vessels of light and love. If Jesus experienced this difficulty, this pedestal syndrome, we should not be surprised that those who have been fully transforming Christ experience a similar problem. The great danger is that veneration can become more important than imitation. When this happens, our devotion to the saints becomes hollow and borders on superstition. There is also a temptation to simply respect the saints from a distance, instead of following their example, studying the wisdom of their lives, and applying their lessons to our own lives” (p.84).

Why does Kelly focus upon copying others? Because of the Catholic emphasis upon Server actions. As Kelly suggests, copying a person is better than idolizing a person. Idolizing uses Mercy thought to focus upon some experience or person with emotional significance, whereas copying also uses Server thought to act like the other person. Saying this more simply, in order to idolize someone I only need a picture of that person, whereas copying someone requires a movie, or series of pictures. This implies that the Catholic method of copying saints is cognitively more advanced than the Orthodox method of venerating icons of saints.

But it is also possible to use Platonic forms to transcend the Catholic method of copying. Kelly implies this when he advocates ‘following their example, studying the wisdom of their lives, and applying their lessons to our own lives.’ Following someone’s example is copying. ‘Following their example’ requires examining the behavior of many individuals, ‘studying the wisdom of their lives’ goes beyond specific example to general understanding, and ‘applying their lessons to our own lives’ means acting in a way that is guided by general understanding. Saying this another way, wisdom by its very nature goes beyond specific to general.

When these steps are followed, then one is actually following an invisible Platonic form and not merely copying a visible—or previously visible—person. In other words, becoming the-best-version-of-myself requires Platonic forms. The-best-version-of-myself does not exist. It is an invisible goal. In order to form an invisible goal I must construct a Platonic form, which means using Perceiver thought to examine many individual situations or people and then using Teacher thought to look for the essence. Again we find ourselves concluding that the Server aspect of personal salvation that Catholicism emphasizes needs to be preceded by a Perceiver stage—which evangelical Christianity emphasizes. Before one can follow Platonic forms one first needs to construct them; before one can pursue a goal one first needs to formulate a goal.

Kelly is mentally driven by the Platonic form of an ideal society that does not exist in real life, but is composed of elements that do exist. “Imagine a culture in which music and the arts celebrated the beauty of the human person and inspired people to explore all of their God-given potential. Imagine a culture in which lawmakers were less concerned with special interests and more concerned with creating a society that encouraged to actively help people to become the best version of themselves. Imagine a culture in which all men, women, and children were educated not simply to perpetuate commerce, but in such a way as they came to understand who and what they are, who and what they are capable of becoming, and how they could use their talents and abilities to make a unique contribution” (p.243). This image of ‘how society could be’ resonates strongly with the Platonic form of an ideal society that has developed within my own mind as a result of studying mental symmetry.

Kelly’s extensive travel and cross-cultural experiences have helped him to develop this Platonic form. “I have spent the past two decades traveling the world in speaking to men, women, and children of all ages and cultures. During this time, I have been blessed with the opportunity to see more of the world than most persons, and more the church the most bishops. I suspect these rare experiences have produced in me a unique perspective, but I hope that the ideas that make up this perspective resonate also in your heart” (p.281). While I have not traveled nearly as widely as Kelly, I have been to 37 countries, and cross-cultural experiences have given me the mental raw material for forming the Platonic form of the ideal society.

Kelly is convinced—and mental symmetry agrees—that following God means heading towards experiences that do not yet exist rather than pursuing visible goals or attempting to reproduce the past. “Some believe the answer is to go back to the 1950s model of the church. Others would like to drag us all the way back to the Middle Ages. I promise you, the answer is never to go back. Throughout salvation history, God himself teaches us this lesson. The story of salvation never goes backward; it is always marching forward. There is no question that we will need to draw on the wisdom of the past in moving forward, but drawing from the past is not the same as going backward. The answer is never to go back; the answers always to move forward. What new places is God calling the Church to now?” (p. 283).

Kelly uses the mental mechanism of Platonic forms to explain what it means for the church to move forward. “The question is “How should the Church change in the 21st century? To answer this question, it is important to understand that the Church is the connection between two worlds. The first is the supernatural world. The second is the natural world, as we know it. In one hand, the Church holds truth, eternal and unchanging. In the other hand, she holds the practices that encourage and enable us to apply the unchanging truth of the gospel to the ever-changing circumstances of our daily lives” (p.282). Notice the two key aspects of Platonic forms being mentioned here. First, a Platonic form is an invisible image based upon visible experiences. In Kelly’s words, it connects the supernatural world with the natural world. Second, a Platonic form is an unchanging image that embodies the essence of many transient, changing physical examples.

Kelly applies the-best-version-of-myself to the Catholic Church. “I see the challenges of our age as a chance for us to envision once again what truly means to be Catholic, and what role the church should play in the modern world from local communities to the national stage. And so, as members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, we also need to ask: Is the Church the-best-version-of-itself?” (p.281).

Now let us tie these various threads together. In order to move forward, one must be motivated by an invisible goal that does not exist in the real world. Similarly, in order to be the-best-version-of-myself and not just copy others, I must be driven by the invisible goal of what I could be. As far as I can tell, the only way to mentally construct such an invisible goal is through the mechanism of Platonic forms. If the Catholic Church is to become the-best-version-of-itself and if the Catholic Church is to move forward and not merely return to the past, then there must be an invisible church thatare you is more perfect than the visible institutional Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church is only one imperfect visible representation of the invisible catholic church.

The problem lies in equating Catholic with catholic. Catholic with a capital ‘C’ refers to a specific Christian denomination with buildings, hierarchy, organization, and liturgy. Catholic with a small ‘c’ means universal and describes an invisible Platonic form that summarizes the essence of all visible Christian denominations.

On the one hand, Rediscover Catholicism makes it very clear that Christianity extends beyond the Catholic Church and that Catholics are not the only Christians. Thus, Kelly believes in an invisible catholic Church that extends beyond the Catholic Church. Going further, the advice which Kelly gives is clearly being guided by the Platonic form of an invisible ideal church. And in order to become the-best-version-of-oneself, one must go beyond imitating saints and repeating sacraments to pursuing Platonic forms. On the other hand, Kelly keeps concluding that people should respond to these universal concepts by returning to the visible Catholic Church.

I suggest that Kelly is trying to have it both ways. Sometimes he uses the word Catholic to mean Catholic while other times it means catholic. In more general terms, I suggest that the fundamental error of the Catholic Church (with a capital ‘C’) is to equate Platonic forms with the physical symbols that represent these Platonic forms. Thus, I suggest that Kelly is caught on the horns of a dilemma. He is to be applauded for examining and describing universal principles that lie behind personal salvation. But if these principles are truly universal, then why does one have to go to the Catholic Church to implement these universal principles?

For instance, bread and wine are symbols that represent the body and life of Jesus. The physical body of Jesus was a specific body and the physical life of Jesus was a specific life. This specific becomes universal when each individual person constructs a mental concept of incarnation.

The apostle Paul talks about this in II Corinthians 5. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Notice that Paul used to think about Jesus from a specific human perspective but no longer does. Instead, he now views the death and resurrection of Jesus as a Platonic form that integrates specific human existence with universal Teacher understanding.[2]

The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation equates the Platonic form of ‘Christ in you’ with the physical body of Jesus. This doctrine is largely based in a set of verses in John 6 about ‘eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus’ which I examine elsewhere.[3] Paul is saying that because Jesus is a Platonic form he no longer focuses upon the physical body of Jesus. When the Platonic form is equated with the physical symbol, then there is a natural tendency to focus upon the physical symbol rather than the Platonic form.

Kelly describes this focus upon the physical symbol. “There is a phenomenon re-emerging in the Catholic world known as Eucharist adoration. “There are more and more parishes that have adoration chapels, and many of them are open 24 hours a day. It may be considered old-fashioned and overly pious by some, but my experience has been that wherever you find Eucharist adoration in a parish, those communities are more vibrant” (p.190). In keeping with this, Pope Francis recently led Catholics worldwide in a time of Eucharist adoration.

In summary, Kelly is trying to use Platonic forms to revitalize the Catholic Church. This is to be commended. But the Catholic Church by its very nature equates Platonic forms with physical symbols, and there is a natural tendency for Catholics to focus upon physical symbols at the expense of Platonic forms. Thus, while I suggest that Kelly’s approach is consistent with Christianity, I suggest that it is not consistent with the underlying assumptions of the Catholic Church.

Faith versus Works

Before we continue, I would like to discuss the relationship between faith and works. Humans have physical bodies and live in concrete thought. As one can see from the diagram of mental symmetry, concrete thought uses Mercy and Server. Mercy thought sees something is desirable, such as a chocolate bar, and this leads to a Server action, such as reaching for the chocolate bar and sticking it in my mouth. In order to experience personal salvation, one must go beyond concrete thought. The purpose of going to school is to ‘get an education’. The student stops using concrete thought with its Server actions and Mercy experiences and he focuses upon developing abstract thought by learning Perceiver facts and gaining Teacher understanding.

One of the byproducts of developing abstract thought is the emergence of Platonic forms, which allows a person to view life from an internal, more abstract, perspective. For instance, instead of merely reaching for the chocolate bar, the educated mind may think about concepts such as calories and diet programs. When physical symbols are equated with Platonic forms and the focus turns to these physical forms, then there will be a natural tendency to ignore abstract thought and focus completely upon concrete thought. Applying this to the Eucharist, if the bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Jesus, then the tendency will be to equate Christian growth with eating a divinely-charged ‘chocolate bar’. Just as eating a chocolate bar gives me physical energy, so eating a blessed wafer gives me ‘divine energy’. In both cases, personal salvation has been mentally reduced to Mercy experiences, Server actions, and concrete thought.

Kelly goes to great lengths to encourage people to think about the Platonic forms that lie behind the physical symbols of the Eucharist, but as we saw earlier, even he slips into the magical thinking of viewing the bread and wine as a sort of divinely-charged chocolate bar. “Do you sense the mystery and power of receiving and consuming Christ in the Eucharist? Do you marvel at the fact? If we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, then the power unleashed within us by the consumption of the Eucharist is immeasurable. I often wonder as I watch great athletes compete, knowing that they are not Catholic, how much better they would perform if they believed Christ was present in the Eucharist and they could receive him right before a race” (p.207).

500 years ago, Martin Luther came along and introduced the doctrine of sola fide—by faith alone. In the language of mental symmetry, personal salvation is not achieved by performing Server actions but rather by holding on to Perceiver facts. Jesus talks about a similar mental transition in John 6, the chapter traditionally used to support transubstantiation. Jesus had just fed 5000 people. When these people want to make him their political leader, he left and they went searching for him. “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.’ Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” Notice that the people are thinking in terms of physical bread. Stated simply, they are functioning at the mental level of reaching for chocolate bars. Jesus tells them to go beyond physical bread to Platonic bread. They respond by asking what Server action they should do, and Jesus answers by saying that they should perform the Perceiver step of believing.

But personal salvation goes beyond merely holding on to Perceiver facts. Instead, the purpose of holding on to Perceiver facts is to construct a mental concept of God in Teacher thought. This Teacher understanding is then applied using Server actions. This relationship is described by Jesus in John 5. “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’” Jesus is performing Server actions, but his Server actions are all being guided by his Teacher understanding of God. Kant describes Server action that is guided solely by general Teacher understanding in his categorical imperative.

Thus, faith is followed by works, but the works that follow faith are different than the works that preceded faith. The works that precede faith are motivated by the Mercy emotions of reaching some goal, while the works that follow faith are guided by the Teacher emotions of acting in a righteous manner. Instead of feeling positive Mercy emotion when reaching the goal, one feels positive Teacher emotion as one is performing the action.

Kant thought that ‘doing Server actions that are guided by Teacher understanding’ was the final stage. Mental symmetry suggests that there is a further stage of ‘dying to self’, in which the old Mercy mental networks of childish identity fall apart and are replaced by new Mercy mental networks that express Teacher understanding. The end result is the integration of abstract thought with concrete thought. Using a school analogy, the student who graduates from school re-enters normal life, but he approaches normal life from a different perspective than the person who never attended school.

Philosophies of Life

Moving on to the next subject, Kelly describes three modern, popular philosophies of life that trouble him. “I find these trends disturbing on many levels: They disturb me as a human being, as a brother, son, father, and member of a family. They disturb me as a citizen of a modern nation. They disturb me as a person of faith and as a Christian. And they disturb me as a Catholic, as an active, believing member of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” (p.32). Saying this more briefly, Kelly thinks that these philosophies of life are wrong for universal reasons and not just religious reasons.

“The first of these practical philosophies is individualism. When most people today are faced with a decision, the question that seemed to dominate their inner dialogue is what is in it for me? This question is the creed of individualism, which is based on all-consuming concern for self. No community, whether a small as a family or as large as a nation, can grow strong with this attitude. Individualism always weakens the community and causes the whole to suffer. In every instance it is a cancerous growth... Under the pressure and guidance of a number of special-interest groups that represent only a fraction of society at large, the rights of the individual have been gradually elevated and ultimately placed above the rights of society as a whole” (p.33).

The second practical philosophy that disturbs Kelly is hedonism. “Hedonism is the philosophy that emphasizes pleasures the ultimate goal of life. The module, the creed, the catch cry of the hedonist is, ‘If it feels good, do it!’... Hedonism is not an expression of freedom; it is a passport to enslavement by thousand cravings and addictions. And in the end it produces not pleasure, but despair.”(p.34).

“The third philosophical mark of our age perfectly complements the greed of individualism and the lust of hedonism in the demise of human character. Accompanying these other modern the creed of minimalism. The minimalist is always asking, ‘What is the least I can do?’ A minimalist is always seeking to exert the minimum effort and received the maximum reward... Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity. It is one of the greatest philosophical diseases of our age” (p.34).

At first glance, it may seem obvious that these three popular philosophies are inadequate. While these three philosophies violate the traditional Catholic mindset, I suggest that if we examine what Kelly is saying in Rediscover Catholicism, we will find that his conclusions are actually closer to the three popular philosophies that he officially condemns than to traditional Catholic thinking. Let us examine these three philosophies first from a traditional Catholic viewpoint and then turn to what Kelly is saying.

I have suggested elsewhere that blind faith in the Bible is naturally accompanied by an attitude of religious self-denial. Stated briefly, blind faith only works if the emotional source of Perceiver truth has far greater emotional status than personal identity. In the Catholic Church, this attitude expresses itself in a pragmatic manner, because the emphasis is upon Server actions and the Catholic Church is regarded as the voice of God.

First, individualism will be regarded as wrong because I am supposed to deny myself rather than ask ‘what is in it for me’. But because the Catholic believer submits to the institution of the Church, individualism is viewed as the enemy of community. Second, hedonism is seen as wrong because it gives pleasure to personal identity rather than denying personal identity. For Catholicism, the opposite of hedonism is discipline, controlling my body instead of allowing it to control me. “This, of course, is where the great gulf appears between the Church and the culture. The message delivered with unrelenting enthusiasm by our culture is, you can be happy without discipline. ‘Do whatever you feel like doing and you will be happy!’ While the church says, ‘You cannot be happy without discipline. In fact, discipline is the path to happiness!’” (p.242). Finally, if personal salvation means building good habits, then shirking from effort would naturally be viewed as wrong. For Catholicism, the opposite of minimalism is service.

Now let us turn our attention to what Kelly advises. Kelly’s entire philosophy is actually based upon a form of individualism. When a person is attempting to become the-best-version-of-himself, then he is focusing upon developing himself as an individual. Kelly says that we follow discipline primarily for our own sake and not for Jesus’ sake. “Christ invites us to the life of discipline not for his sake, but for our sake; not to help them, but to help us; not to make him happy, but allow us to share in his happiness” (p.39). Kelly suggests that there should be both giving and receiving. “Catholicism is a way of life in which the giving and receiving happen in equal measure. It nurtures the individual, the local community, and the whole human family” (p.52). And Kelly says that self-denial actually requires a sense of individuality. “To love is to give yourself freely and without reservation. Yet to give yourself—to another person, to an endeavor, or to God—you must first possess yourself” (p.41).

How does Kelly reconcile this with the Catholic concept of religious self-denial? He says that it is a paradox. “The philosophy of Christ is the ultimate philosophy of human happiness. It is not just a way of life: it is the way of life. At the same time, the philosophy is Christ is one of self-donation. This is the great paradox of God’s teaching” (p.38). In contrast, the main theme of Catholicism is not becoming the-best-version-of-myself but rather suppressing and denying self for unselfish reasons. Thus, what Kelly is saying does not appear to line up with traditional Catholicism.

While Kelly is against hedonism, he also recognizes that there are legitimate physical needs, and he recommends taking good care of the physical body. “There are four major aspects of human person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. When we eat well, exercise often, and sleep regularly, we feel more alive physically” (p.39). “God has given us legitimate needs, dreams and desires, and talents and abilities to help us understand how we might best make a unique contribution” (p.117). He says that one of the benefits of discipline is heightened sensory awareness. “Discipline does not enslave or stifle us; rather, it sets us free to soar to unimagined Heights. It sharpens the human senses, allowing us to savor the subtler tastes of life’s experiences. Whether those experiences are physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual, discipline elevates them to their ultimate reality” (p.40). And he says that Catholicism is based upon celebration. “As Catholics, the one thing we do more than anything else is celebrate. Everything the church does is centered around a celebration. We celebrate life. We celebrate the changing seasons with the richness of the Church’s calendar. We celebrate excellence by honoring as saints the heroes of our faith. We celebrate birth and eternal life with baptism and burial... The spirit of Catholicism is predominantly one of celebration, which is the genius and the fundamental orientation of our faith” (p.61).

In contrast, Catholicism has historically felt that even legitimate physical needs should be suppressed. Quoting from the linked webpage, “As Saint Faustina tells us; ‘Poor indeed is a convent where there are no sick sisters.’ It is in illness when rapid progress can be made in the spiritual life, and numerous souls saved. In this sense, external penances should only be regarded as an interim measure for when we are healthy, keeping the flesh at bay until we become ill again, and the floodgates of grace open to us. Likewise, the saints also offer a word of caution about tending too much to the health of the body. St. Joseph Calasanctius says; ‘Woe to the religious who loves health more than sanctity.’ Saint Teresa of Avila even said it was a temptation by Satan to be concerned for one’s own health in religious life. According to the saint, it is the superior’s duty to tend to the bodily needs of the nuns, not the nuns themselves. ‘Let our Superiors, to whom the charge belongs, look after our bodies; let our only care be to hasten to our Lord’s presence’.”

Compare this with what Kelly says. “Holiness is compatible with every state in life. Married people are called to live holy lives just as much as monks and nuns. Sexual intimacy is a profound gift from God and an instrument of holiness... History is full of examples of men and women who become all they were created to be called saints. Some of them were priests, monks, nuns... Many people falsely believe that if you want to be holy, you are not allowed to enjoy life. Some believe to be whole you have to run away from the world. Others think you have to be in church on your knees praying all day. Still others believe to be holy you have to walk around with halo, that you are not allowed to smile, or have any fun, or enjoy yourself at all. They think to be holy you have to despise everything of this world and walk around with a long, drawn-out, stoic look on your face” (p.71).

But this Catholic webpage say something quite different about saints and suffering. “Reading the lives of many Catholic saints, one finds them not only accepting suffering, or resigned to suffering, but desirous of it, seeking it proactively, asking for more. For example, the three little children to whom Our Lady appeared at Fatima, began to seek suffering, after Mary revealed to them that ‘many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice themselves and pray for them’. Little Jacinta (now Bl. Jacinta) outdid the other children in seeking voluntary sacrifices and suffering, until Our Lady appeared to her and told her to moderate some of her practices. St. Ignatius advised his followers, ‘Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings.’”

More specifically, Kelly spends five pages describing Mother Theresa. But, recent research has shown that Mother Teresa thought that “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.” And doctors who visited her homes for the dying “Observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers.” Saying this more bluntly, mother Theresa wanted her patients to suffer and die.

John Vianney is another saint to which Kelly devotes five pages. He did not enjoy life—at all. “What is less known is the overwhelming depression that weighed upon John Vianney’s soul without relief his entire life. Though he was the most sought-after man in all of France, he seemed incapable of seeing the immense amount of good he was doing. Despite the tens of thousands of pilgrims who traveled to Ars each year in the hope of receiving the sacraments or a word of advice from him, he believed himself useless. The priest who had reawakened the faith of a village and set all France aflame through his preaching and holiness felt God so far from him that he was afraid he had no more faith. He believed himself to have no intelligence or gift of discernment. It is as if God drew a veil over his eyes so that he could see nothing of what God was doing through him for others. The Cure feared he was ruining everything and had become an obstacle in God’s way. The root of John Vianney’s severe depression was his fear of doing badly at every turn, and the thousands who traveled to Ars increased his terror. It never occurred to him that he might have a special grace. Instead, he feared that the long line of penitents to his village church were a sign that he was a hypocrite. He feared facing the judgment with the responsibility for all these people on his conscience. There was not a moment when he felt that God was satisfied with him. A great and profound sadness possessed his soul so powerfully that he eventually could not even imagine relief.”

In other words, it appears that the picture of joyous Catholic saints that Kelly is portraying is not accurate. Instead, he is rewriting Catholic history to make it more palatable to a 21st-century audience. My complaint is not with Kelly’s philosophy. It makes a lot of sense. But I suggest that it is disingenuous for him to suggest that his philosophy lines up with traditional Catholic culture. This leads us to pose again the question which was asked before. If Kelly’s statements are valid, then why should one apply these statements by becoming a member of an organization that is inconsistent with these statements?

Putting this another way, what Kelly is really proposing is a minimalist version of traditional Catholicism. He is telling people how to experience the benefits of holiness without expending the effort or enduring the suffering of the saints who came before him. He may talk about discipline, but does he advocate wearing a cilice? Wearing a scratchy hair shirt was very common during the early ages of Christianity, both for clergy and laity, and this practice was adopted by most of the religious orders of the Middle Ages. Metal chains with inward-poking points were often added to hair shirts to increase the pain of wearing one. Kelly says that ‘many people falsely believe that if you want to be holy, you are not allowed to enjoy life’. If Kelly is right, then much of Catholicism has practiced and is practicing a false form of holiness, because anyone who chooses to go through life wearing a garment that inflicts physical pain ‘believes that if you want to be holy, you are not allowed to enjoy life’. Using Kelly’s standard, Pope John Paul II practiced ‘false holiness’, but Pope John Paul II’s self-flagellation is now being used is as evidence to support making him a saint.

Let us turn attention now what the Bible says. Kelly claims that “Jesus never asked, ‘What’s in it for me?’ He was not motivated by the individualist creed; he was motivated by a spirit of service. Far from advocating a hedonistic deification of pleasure, Jesus gently proclaimed a life of self-denial, saying, ‘Whoever wishes to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.’ (Matthew 16:24) He certainly did not asked himself, ‘What is the least I can do and still bring salvation to humanity?’ No, he asked, ‘What is the most I can do?’ For this is the question of the lover. The attitude of Christ forms a stark contrast to the philosophies of individualism, hedonism, and minimalism” (p. 39).

Like Kelly, most Christians think that Jesus epitomizes the attitude of service and religious self-denial. However, if one examines Bible more closely, one finds that this simply is not true. Let us start with Matthew 16:24, the verse which Kelly—and almost everyone else—pulls out of context. The passage reads “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

The theme of this passage is ‘What’s in it for me?’ What is being described here is the path to personal reward and personal salvation. Preserving personal identity will lead to failure, while self-denial for Jesus’ sake will lead to personal salvation. Saving one’s soul is more important than getting rich, and every person will eventually receive a reward for his work.

Interpreting this in the language of mental symmetry, childish personal identity is fatally flawed and needs to fall apart and be put back together, a painful process known as dying to self. But simply allowing childish identity to fall apart is not sufficient. Instead, falling apart only leads to personal salvation if one is following practical Contributor thought—backed up by intellectual Contributor thought and general Teacher understanding. This identification between personal identity and Contributor thought is symbolically represented by the Eucharist.

Kelly says something similar. “The essence of Catholicism is dynamic transformation. You cannot become more like Jesus Christ and at the same time stay as you are. To be Catholic means to be striving to live the Gospel, to be striving to become more like Jesus Christ. It is this dynamic approach to transformation that animates the human person—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually—and allows us to experience life to the fullest” (p.51).

Kelly talks about discipline, self-denial, and ‘striving to become more like Jesus Christ’. But this is not the same as dying to self. Self-denial merely suppresses the mental networks of childish identity. Self-denial tries to prevent childish habits from being triggered, but they are still present under the surface. Dying to self, in contrast, allows childish identity to be torn apart and rebuilt in adult form. This can only be done through the help of a mental concept of Jesus the incarnation (practical Contributor thought combined with intellectual Contributor thought) backed up by a mental concept of God (a general Teacher theory that applies to personal identity).

Saying this more simply, the Christian path of salvation is indirect and not direct. Personal salvation goes through the detour of dying to self, rather than the direct path of merely improving self. Similarly, the reward from God comes indirectly via heaven and not directly from other people.

It is interesting to note that the verses preceding Matthew 16:24 provide the main support for the institution of the Catholic Church. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Matthew 16 is examined in more detail elsewhere. Apostolic succession claims that the authority of the Catholic Church extends back to Peter through an unbroken succession of bishops—a direct path can be traced from the apostle Peter to the current Pope. But Jesus is saying that the path to personal salvation is indirect and not direct.

In fact, Jesus specifically says that he will not acquire his mantle of authority through ‘apostolic succession’. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:21-23). Instead of being blessed by the existing chief priest so that he can carry on from him in ‘apostolic succession’, Jesus will be killed by him. And when Peter—who has just been given the ‘keys of heaven’ two verses earlier—tries to use his newly given authority to tell Jesus that he should follow a path of ‘apostolic succession’, Jesus accuses him of following man rather than God. That is because Jesus is acquiring his authority from God through the indirect path of personal death and resurrection, rather than the direct path of ‘apostolic succession’.

Jesus says this explicitly four chapters later. “As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.’ Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.’ But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.’ And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. ‘It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20).

Again, Jesus tells his disciples that he will not be accepted through ‘apostolic succession’, but rather be condemned by the religious leaders and then experience death and resurrection. Two of the disciples then send their mother to Jesus to ask ‘What’s in it for us?’ Notice that Jesus does not reject their request. Instead, he clarifies it. First, he asks them if they are willing to pay the price, which is following his path of death and resurrection. Second, he tells them that he is not the one who gives the reward but God. He then explains that the path to authority is an indirect one that leads through service.

This path to personal success is described in Philippians 2. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus realized that the path to having authority as God is not a direct path. Instead it means becoming a servant and going through death and resurrection. As a result of following this path, Jesus received as a reward from God a name that is above other names. If Jesus’ name is above all other names, then this means that the path of death and resurrection is a universal path that applies to all people and all institutions. That is why Paul says to ‘Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus’.

For instance, most of my research consists of reading and analyzing the findings of others. Instead of imposing my ideas upon others, I have tried to learn from others. Instead of seeking personal status, I have tried to apply my understanding. And instead of becoming an established expert in one field, I have repeatedly entered new fields as a beginner. This path has personally led me through dying to self, but it has also given me a meta-theory that can explain other theories. And because I have tried to apply understanding, I find that research flows naturally from personal experience. Using religious language, God has given me a name that is above other names. This does not mean that I trust my personal experience as a basis for theory. It is very important to check any understanding that is based upon personal experience with the research of others. However, I have found repeatedly that my personal experience has helped to point my thinking in the right direction. I also know that if understanding is not applied, then personal experience will inevitably point thinking in the wrong direction.

Kelly says that Jesus ‘was not motivated by the individualist creed; he was motivated by a spirit of service.’ Jesus’ motivation is described at the beginning of Hebrews 12. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The goal of Jesus was not to suffer. Instead, his goal was to have lasting joy, the road to lasting joy led through temporary suffering, and he was eventually rewarded by God.

Let us turn now to the topic of hedonism. On the one hand, the Bible says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2). But on the other hand, Paul states that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4).

In simple language, what holds experiences together, physical structure or an internal understanding? The ‘lust of the flesh’ idolizes physical sensation, the ‘lust of the eyes’ idolizes physical objects, and the ‘boastful pride of biological life’ idolizes natural existence. In each case, emotional Mercy experiences are being held together by external structure. The problem is not with the Mercy experiences themselves. Paul specifically says that spirituality is not found in either celibacy or fasting. Instead, the solution is to use Perceiver truth to form a general understanding of God. Thankfulness recognizes that specific Mercy experiences are an expression of general understanding, while prayer places specific situations under general understanding. Why does one submit to a general understanding? Because it applies everywhere to everyone over the long term.

For instance, civilization has not changed the basic experiences of human existence. We still get hungry, we still eat, we still travel, we still go to the bathroom, we still have sex, we still entertain ourselves, and we still acquire wealth. But what has changed massively is the way that we perform these activities, meet our needs, and satisfy our desires. Instead of living at the edge of starvation, we are able to grow surplus of food. Instead of eating the same food every day, we have a variety of foods. Instead of trudging by foot, we can drive and fly in comfort. Instead of going to the bathroom in a fly-infested outhouse, we can use indoor plumbing. Instead of being sexually assaulted by strangers, we can enjoy meaningful relationships. Instead of listening to banging and chanting, we can enjoy subtly crafted music, and instead of pillaging, we can create our own wealth. What makes every one of these aspects possible is the order-within-complexity of Teacher structure. Growing food is guided the understanding of crop science, travel and trade require an interconnected network of roads and vehicles, sanitation needs a sewer system, meaningful interpersonal relationship requires family structure, education encourages cultured entertainment, and the creation of wealth requires the rule of law.

The result is a totally different view of physical pleasure. Hedonism is driven by immediate gratification; if it feels good, do it. Self-denial suppresses physical pleasure; it ‘forbids marriage and advocates abstaining from foods’. Mental wholeness seeks to expand a person’s capacity for pleasure, and wants everyone to have as much pleasure as they can handle for as long as possible. That is because Teacher thought looks for universality. Thus, when Teacher thought is applied to personal identity, then Teacher thought will motivate people to pursue lasting pleasure.

Childish identity, in contrast, is based upon specific Mercy experiences. It wants pleasant experiences for me regardless of the misery that this inflicts upon others. It wants to feel good right now, even if this means long-term pain. Therefore, it is by definition temporary.

That brings us to the third philosophy of minimalism. The real issue, I suggest, is not minimizing effort but rather determining value. Humans are finite creatures. Therefore, in order to spend more time doing one thing one must always spend less time doing other things. Anyone who is trying to become the-best-version-of-himself will minimize what he regards to be of peripheral value in order to pursue what he regards as more valuable. Kelly says that “people everywhere seem to be asking, ‘What is the least I can do and still keep my job? What is the least I can do and still get reasonable grades in school? What is the least I can do and still keep my marriage alive? What is the least I can do and still stay physically fit, What is the least I can do and still get to heaven?’” (p.34). What Kelly is really complaining about is a value system that does not include work, education, marriage, physical fitness, or heaven. Mental symmetry suggests that the bottom line should be mental wholeness, because this makes every other pleasure possible.

Earlier I suggested that Kelly himself is pursuing minimization by proposing a new-and-improved version of Catholicism. In a similar manner, the Bible describes Christianity as a new-and-improved form of religion. “Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain” (Galatians 4).

Note the various elements involved in this transition. First, people before the transition are described as ‘children’ who ‘are in bondage under the elemental things of the world.’ In the language of mental symmetry, their minds are governed by Mercy mental networks that have been programmed by their physical environment. Using a school analogy, they are learning from ‘the school of hard knocks’. Second, people after the transition are guided by Teacher understanding. They are no longer slaves, but sons and heirs who regard God as father. Using the school analogy, they enroll in school and learn through understanding rather than having to learn their lessons from the school of hard knocks. Third, enrolling in a school is only possible if someone first discovers the material that will be taught and sets up the school. In religious language, God—who is based in Teacher understanding, sends someone at the right time to redeem people. In this passage Paul is describing the major transition that separates Judaism and Christianity. However, as Paul states in Ephesians 3 where he talks about ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’, I suggest that a similar principle also applies to lesser transitions. Fourth, once a Teacher-guided school system has been established, then it is very important not to return to the previous Mercy-based arrangement. In the language of Paul, ‘now that you have come to know God,’ why do you ‘desire to be enslaved all over again’?

Summarizing, if there is sufficient Teacher structure, then it is possible to set up a new way of learning that is driven by Teacher understanding rather than Mercy experiences. Once a new way of learning has been established, then one must not to return to the old method of learning through Mercy experiences.

Applying this to our current discussion, we saw that church organization made Catholicism possible and that the printing press made Protestantism possible. In a similar manner, the development of modern thought has made it possible for Kelly to present a new form of Catholicism that is based in psychological understanding rather than personal suffering. However, Kelly then advocates returning to the previous method of submission to the Catholic Church with its calendar and liturgy. This does not mean that calendar and liturgy are wrong, but when they become the defining essence of Christianity, then I suggest that one is becoming ‘enslaved all over again’ by ‘observing days and months and seasons and years’.


We have seen that Catholicism has historically placed a great emphasis upon personal suffering. For instance, John Vianney, one of the saints portrayed by Kelly, says that “If we loved God, we should love crosses, we should wish for them, we should take pleasure in them...We should be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us.” Vianney gives the following gruesome example in his catechism on suffering. “There was once a religious who loved suffering so much that he had fastened the rope from a well round his body; this cord had rubbed off the skin, and had by degrees buried itself in the flesh, out of which worms came. His brethren asked that he should be sent out of the community. He went away happy and pleased, to hide himself in a rocky cavern. But the same night the Superior heard Our Lord saying to him: ‘Thou hast lost the treasure of thy house.’ Then they went to fetch back this good saint, and they wanted to see from whence these worms came. The Superior had the cord taken off, which was done by turning back the flesh. At last he got well.”

Let us attempt to analyze Catholic suffering with the help of this webpage. The author writes “that suffering is of such inestimable redemptive worth, that nothing equals it in heaven or on earth. As Our Lord told Saint Faustina; ‘If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.’” He adds, “In fact, the saints teach us that suffering is of such great merit, that it is greater than external works such as preaching, writing, or even working miracles, “‘We love only to the degree that we are willing to suffer.’ (Fr. John Hardon, S.J.) If someone preaches to me with great zeal, I will not be as convinced of their love, as when that same person suffers and undergoes hardship for me. Similarly, the defining moment of redemption for humanity was not when Our Lord preached in the synagogues or healed the sick. It was when Love was nailed to a tree and drained of His blood. In this way, love and suffering are inseparable. And what greater proof of love is there than the one who dies to save His very executioners? As Christians, are we not called to trod this same path of Our Lord—not for sufferings sake but for Love's sake—to willingly forget self in order to make others happy?”

Compare this with what Kelly says. “I believe God wants us to be happy. I believe God gave us this yearning for happiness that constantly preoccupies our hearts. It seems his place this yearning within each human heart is a spiritual navigational instrument designed to lead us toward destiny. God himself is the author of our desire for happiness. As a father who takes a sincere and active interest in the lives of his children, God sent his only Son to respond to humanity's yearning for happiness, and teaches how to satisfy that yearning. God sent his Son into the world to reconcile us with themselves, certainly, but he also sent Jesus to show us how to live” (p.38). Again one finds oneself wondering why Kelly chose John Vianney as an example to follow. One would hope that ‘tying a rope around oneself and allowing it to dig into the flesh until the worms crawl out’ is not an example of becoming the-best-version-of-oneself. And we are not talking here about a minor doctrinal issue. Instead, we are dealing with a fundamental approach to life, religion, and God. Vianney’s attitude of masochism would be regarded today as a serious psychological condition.

I suggest that we can use mental networks to help us make sense of these extreme statements about suffering. A mental network is a collection of emotional memories functions as a unit. Whenever a mental network is triggered, it will try to impose its structure upon the rest of the mind. The mind can form mental networks in one of two ways: First, emotional experiences can come together to form Mercy mental networks within Mercy thought; the mind uses Mercy mental networks to represent both personal identity and other people. Second, general theories in Teacher thought can form Teacher mental networks; the basic building block for Teacher thought is words.

Examining the quotes about suffering with this in mind, I suggest that we can conclude that the author is talking about an interaction between Mercy mental networks. He talks about love, which tells us we are dealing with emotional structures. He describes the relationship between God and personal identity, indicating that he is referring to mental networks that represent people. And he says that this interaction is demonstrated by actions and experiences and does not involve preaching or writing, telling us that we are dealing primarily with the Mercy realm of experiences.

Thus, in simple terms, we are dealing with two incompatible mental networks, a Mercy mental network that represents personal identity and a Mercy mental network that represents God. When two incompatible mental networks collide, then one will impose its structure upon the other. Personal suffering suppresses the mental network of personal identity while love of God activates the mental network of God. If love for God is totally selfless, then the mental network of God can be activated without experiencing any incompatible input from personal identity. Comparing this with Belenky’s stages of women’s development, I suggest that this corresponds to her initial stage of silence, which could be summarized as ‘I have no right to exist’.

However, Belenky’s next stage of received knowledge is also present, which could be summarized as ‘submit to authority’. The emotional experiences of ‘suffering for Jesus’ can themselves turn into a mental network which will give emotional comfort to personal identity when it is activated.

This is illustrated by the following quote from the diary of Saint Faustina. “Once, when I was in the kitchen with Sister N., she got a little upset with me and, as a punishment, ordered me to sit on the table while she herself continued to work hard, cleansing and scrubbing. And while I was sitting there, the sisters came along and were astounded to find me sitting on the table, and each one had her say. One said that I was a loafer and another, ‘What an eccentric!’...Truly, God alone knows how many acts of self denial it took. I thought I’d die of shame. God often allowed such things for the sake of my inner formation, but He compensated me for this humiliation by a great consolation. During Benediction I saw Him in great beauty. Jesus looked at me kindly and said, ‘My daughter, do not be afraid of sufferings; I am with you.’”

Notice how mortified Faustina felt when others found her sitting on a chair and not ‘suffering for Jesus’. But, when she mentally interpreted this shame ‘as suffering for Jesus’, she received emotional comfort. In a similar vein, my mother tells me that my grandmother was always working and that she would never let grandfather see her sit on a chair and do nothing.

I have suggested that one primary fallacy of the Catholic Church is to equate Platonic forms with the physical symbols that represent these Platonic forms, for instance saying that the bread and wine of Eucharist actually are the body and blood of Jesus or that the visible Catholic Church is the invisible catholic Church. When such an equivalence is made, then the symbol must be kept physically separate and protected from contamination. This type of reverence for the physical symbol is illustrated by Eucharist adoration. A Platonic form is an invisible generic image that is a mental byproduct of a general Teacher teacher. A physical symbol is a specific object that is remembered by Mercy thought. When Platonic forms are equated with physical symbols, then there will be a natural tendency to view God from a Mercy perspective. And when these physical symbols are protected through holiness, then there will be a natural tendency to view God as inherently incompatible with humans, leading to the view of suffering that we have just described.

The main error, I suggest, is viewing God from a Mercy perspective. I have suggested that a mental concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity, and when a mental concept of God is based purely in a general Teacher theory, then the traits of the Christian God will naturally emerge. However, what happens when God becomes associated with holy objects, holy places, holy rituals, and holy people whose holiness must be protected by keeping them separated from secular objects, places, rituals, and people? Serving God then becomes equivalent to denying self and focusing fully upon God means abrogating self.

When Teacher understanding is used to form the mental concept of God, then a different view of holiness emerges. Instead of viewing ‘loving God’ as the abrogation of personal identity, a person will ‘love God’ by thinking and acting in a way that leads to long term happiness for both self and others.

Kelly is applying minimalism to Christianity by proposing a more gentle form of Catholicism. In a similar vein, I suggest that understanding makes it possible to apply minimalism to Christianity by replacing suffering with patience. The goal is still the same. Childish identity with its self-destructive hedonism still has to fall apart and be replaced by a personal identity that is compatible with the righteousness of God. But the method of dying to self changes. Instead of being driven by the stick of suffering, it is possible to be drawn by the carrot of patience. We have already seen that Teacher understanding leads to the development of Platonic forms. These invisible images of perfection and simplicity provide the carrot that motivates a person to die to the old habits of childish identity. And the positive Teacher emotion that comes from understanding the process of personal transformation helps to balance the Mercy pain that occurs when childish identity falls apart. Saying this another way, patience learns by delaying sensory gratification until it can be satisfied in a long-term manner. Sexual desire provides one of the main opportunities for learning patience, because patience delays sexual gratification until it can be satisfied in a long-term manner, and it practices sex in a monogamous manner that preserves mental integration and does not fragment the mind.

But what about the idea that sainthood is associated with suffering? After all, Paul says in Colossians that “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” The idea of suffering redemptively on behalf of others is discussed elsewhere. Summarizing briefly, any person who comes up with a new understanding or a new invention usually suffers on behalf of others. The student who is learning ideas in school and the consumer who is enjoying laborsaving devices seldom realizes the effort—and personal suffering—that was involved in discovering these ideas and designing these devices. But, enduring suffering as part of the price for learning or inventing is far different than making suffering the primary aim of human existence. The researcher and the inventor are both trying to improve life; they do not take a masochistic delight in having worms crawl out of their belly.

But doesn’t Paul say that he ‘buffets the body’? Let us look at this passage. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9).

Paul is driven by the positive goal of wanting to communicate his message effectively, not by the negative goal of ‘being a slave to all’. Therefore, he tailors his message to his listeners and respects the cultural sensitivities of his audience, while at the same time remaining true to his message and not submitting to the cultural demands of his listeners. Similarly, he disciplines his body so that ‘after having preached to others he himself is not disqualified’. I mentioned earlier that there is a difference between understanding Christianity and applying Christianity. Paul wants to make sure that he does not just talk about Christianity but also personally experiences the benefits of his message. Preaching is emotionally seductive. When an audience listens to my words, then their approval gives me positive Mercy emotions while their understanding makes my theory feel more general. However, I myself will only benefit from my understanding if I apply my own words to myself. In other words, Paul is not practicing masochism. Rather, he is making sure that his Server actions are consistent with his Teacher words; he is ‘doing all things for the sake of the gospel’ so that he can ‘become a fellow partaker of it’.

One is reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Before we continue, let us summarize. Suffering is an opportunity for personal growth, and when one does encounter personal suffering, it is very important to learn from the experience and not become bitter. But that is quite different from seeking out suffering or taking a perverse pleasure in suffering. It is also important to apply understanding and to make sure that one’s actions are consistent with one’s words. But the virtue does not lie in doing Server actions that lead to Mercy pain, but rather in doing Server actions that express Teacher understanding. In religious language, what is wanted is not self-mortification but rather righteousness.

It is claimed that many of the Catholic saints had supernatural powers. Assuming that at least some of these claims are valid, how does one account for this? Self-mortification has traditionally been used in shamanism as a rite of initiation to gain supernatural powers. Presumably, a masochistic saint would experience a similar spiritual breakthrough.

Obviously, because one is dealing here with nonphysical reality, empirical evidence cannot be used. However, I suggest that it is possible to approach this topic in a semi-rigorous manner by looking for similar patterns from different sources, applying the theory of mental symmetry, and backing this up with hearsay evidence.

Mental symmetry suggests that a supernatural realm exists that is the mirror-image of the human realm. This concept is explored elsewhere and will only be described briefly here. Because the human mind is symmetrical, it could function either in the natural realm or the supernatural realm. Growing up in the physical body causes strong mental networks to form that are compatible with natural existence and incompatible with supernatural existence. Self-mortification threatens the integrity of these mental networks by making natural existence painful. It is conceivable that the mind/soul would eventually respond to this by attempting to leave the natural and enter the supernatural. Similarly, psychological studies suggest that ‘fantasy prone individuals’ who spend much of their time in an imaginary world are more likely to have vivid UFO encounters. Temptation ‘from the devil’ or ‘evil spirits’ figures prominently in both the stories of saints and shamans, suggesting that the method of self-mortification is not a godly one. If God is based in general Teacher understanding, then this makes sense, because self-mortification destroys order rather than building it.

Here too, I suggest that understanding can provide a better way. Self-mortification uses the stick of personal suffering to attack the mental networks that bind a person to physical reality. Teacher understanding draws a person away from pure physical reality using the carrot of Platonic forms. Instead of wanting to leave physical reality because it is so painful, a person wants to live in heaven because it is so wonderful. And if the supernatural is a mirror-image realm, then using Teacher thought—which is the mirror image of Mercy thought—builds mental networks that are compatible with mirror-image existence. The end result is both a desire and ability to live in a combination of heaven and earth. One sees this symbolized by the New Jerusalem at the end of the book of Revelation. Science and technology provide a partial example of this interplay between human existence and abstract understanding.

I suggest that we can also use cognitive mechanisms to explain why saints figure so prominently in Catholicism. I have suggested that one of the major errors of Catholicism is to equate physical symbols with the Platonic forms that these symbols represent. But scientific thought goes beyond specific situations to general understanding. Therefore, I suggest that Catholic thinking has historically gone through three stages. First, some physical symbol is used to represent a Platonic form. Next, this physical symbol is equated with the Platonic form, and the focus is then placed upon the physical symbol rather than the Platonic form. Finally, abstract thought is used to look for the hidden meaning behind the symbol. The end result is a parallel structure in which the original Platonic form exists alongside the Platonic form that comes from the symbol that was originally used to represent the original Platonic form. For instance, bread and wine are symbols that represent personal identification with a mental concept of Jesus. The original Platonic form is the internal, invisible, mental identification between Mercy identity and Contributor thought. Bread and wine are then equated with the Platonic form with the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the focus is placed upon the ceremony of the Eucharist and physically eating and drinking the bread and the wine. Abstract thought then meditates upon the Eucharist and thinks about the Platonic form behind the physical ceremony. The end result is two side-by-side Platonic forms: the original Platonic form of personal identification with a mental concept of Jesus and the secondary Platonic form of Eucharist as a universal concept.

In a previous essay, I used this approach to examine the historical development of the Catholic focus upon the Virgin Mary. I suggest that the same analysis can be used to explain the focus upon the saints. The first stage occurs when monks and nuns acquire spiritual power through self-mortification, or become examples of the faith by being tortured, practicing self-denial, or being martyred. The focus should be upon understanding the general principles of personal salvation that these exemplary individuals have followed. However, instead of examining these Platonic forms, the focus will be upon venerating the heroes who epitomize these Platonic forms. The physical symbol of the hero will then be equated with the Platonic form of the character trait. The result is patron saints, and instead of understanding and applying the general principles, the Catholic believer prays to the patron saint. When abstract thought is applied to this combination, there will be two parallel sets of Platonic forms: the original Platonic forms of character development and the secondary Platonic forms of understanding what lies behind the lives of the patron saints. In symbolic language the direct light of the sun becomes combined with the reflected light of the moon.[4]

Kelly’s Definition of Holiness

Now let us examine how Kelly approaches holiness. He views sin as being self-destructive, and he says that childish identity naturally acquires self-destructive habits. “Most people fill their lives with habits that are self-destructive and that cause them to become less than God created them to be. It is interesting and important to note that the habits that diminish us can be acquired with virtually no effort and are usually the result of acting without any real thought, while the habits that allow us to celebrate and defend the best version of ourselves require real effort and openness to the grace of God” (p.121). Mental symmetry would define sin in a similar manner. In simple terms, sin is stupid because it leads to long-term pain and fragmentation, leading to a personal identity composed of fragmented, inconsistent mental networks. In the words of Kelly, “Hedonism is not an expression of freedom; it is a passport to enslavement by thousand cravings and addiction. In the end produces not pleasure, but despair” (p.34).

In contrast, an attitude of religious self-denial will naturally view sin as forbidden fruit—something pleasant that must be suppressed in order to follow God. The devil will then be seen as a tempter who uses the lure of forbidden fruit to draw people away from following God. This attitude can be seen in the following story from Padre Pio (a saint to which Kelly refers on page 131). “One day, while I was hearing confessions, a man came to the confessional where I was. He was tall, handsome, dressed with some refinement and he was kind and polite. He started to confess his sins, which were of every kind: against God, against man and against the morals. All the sins were obnoxious! I was disoriented, in fact for all the sins that he told me, but I responded to him with God’s Word, the example of the Church, and the morals of the Saints. But the enigmatic penitent answered me word for word, justifying his sins, always with extreme ability and politeness. He excused all the sinful actions, making them sound quite normal and natural, even comprehensible on the human level...He continued this way with the sins that were gruesome against God, Our Lady, the Saints, always using disrespectful round-about argumentation. He kept this up even with the foulest of sins that could be conjured in the mind of a most sinful man... Suddenly; through a vivid, radiant and internal light I clearly recognized who he was. With a sound and imperial tone I told him: “Say long live Jesus, long live Mary!” As soon as I pronounced these sweet and powerful names, Satan instantly disappeared in a trickle of fire, leaving behind him an unbearable stench.”

Catholicism has traditionally viewed vows of poverty and celibacy as essential aspects of being holy. That is because personal pleasure and personal wealth contradict an attitude of religious self-denial. Kelly is attempting to go beyond traditional Catholic views about holiness. He asks rhetorically, “What does living a holy life mean to you? We all have different ideas of who God is, and we all have different ideas what it means to be holy. In your mind, does someone have to be a priest or nun to be holy? Do people need to be poor to be holy? Can wealthy people be holy? Can married people be holy? Do you view sexual intimacy as a barrier to holiness or a path to holiness? Is it possible to have a good sex life and be holy? Could a businessman or -woman be truly holy? Can you be holy?” (p.71).

He then answers his question. “Holiness is compatible with every state in life. Married people are called to live holy lives just as much as monks and nuns. Sexual intimacy is a profound gift from God and an instrument of holiness. The riches of this world have value only inasmuch as they help us fulfill our essential purpose. If we own them, they can be powerful tools that help us live holy lives. If they own us, they will prevent us from becoming the-best-version-of-ourselves” (p.71).

Kelly’s concept of God has been influenced by the Catholic Church, but he has also universalized his idea of God to extend beyond Catholicism. “I wrote The Rhythm of Life not only for Catholic audience, not alone for a Christian audience, but for the whole cross-section of society. And yet, I learned the premise upon which I based the book from the way the Church structures our practice of Christianity. Everything in creation has rhythm. Rhythm is at the core of God’s genius for creation. As we turn to God, we are invited to use the same blueprint for our life” (p.221).

Notice three points. First, Kelly views Teacher order not just as a Catholic or Christian trait, but as a universal attribute of God as expressed in creation. Second, Kelly acquired this viewpoint from the structure of the Catholic Church. I have mentioned that each stage of Christian religion naturally emphasizes a different aspect of the total Christian message. When a person approaches God through a liturgical calendar, then it is natural to view God from the Teacher perspective of order-within-complexity. Third, in the same way that the postmodern tendency is to redefine science from an understanding of how the world functions to a description of how a group of scientists act, so there is a natural tendency for a liturgical church to base its concept of God not upon universal structure, but rather upon the structure of the church. If that church equates its symbols with universal structure, then it will be especially easy to confuse the one with the other. This is an important point to which we will return later on.

An attitude of religious self-denial will believe that following God means denying self and that following God completely means turning one’s back upon secular existence. Kelly recognizes that this is the standard Catholic view and he does not accept it. “Life is vocational, meaning is about seeking, finding, and living out your mission, your vocation. We talk a lot about vocation, but I do not get the sense that the average person really knows what it means. With the current shortage of vocations to the priesthood, our discussions about vocations tend to be focused on priesthood. We acknowledge that marriage, religious life, and the single life are also vocations, but our discussion, education, and prayer for vocations seem to be focused almost exclusively on our need for priests. All this leaves many people thinking that some have a vocation and others don’t. The idea of vocation in general has nothing to do with priesthood. Vocation is about finding what you are best suited to. It is about finding your mission in life, discovering who God has created you to be and what tasks he has created you to carry out in this world. Everyone has a vocation, and finding it truly is the single event that will create more happiness in our lives than anything else” (p.183).

Thus, we see that Kelly views following God from a universal perspective. In the language of mental symmetry, a mental concept of God emerges when a general understanding applies to personal identity, and one follows God by acting in a way that is consistent with this general understanding. In religious language this is known as being righteous. Vocation is a generalization of righteousness. Righteousness applies to individual acts and personal character; vocation describes the general plan of a person’s life—the sum of a person’s actions and character. Teacher thought feels good when there is order-within-complexity; therefore, a general theory that applies to personal identity will feel good when people function effectively in a way that all the parts of the mind work together smoothly, and when society functions in a way that people work together smoothly.

Kelly also believes that religion should go beyond blind faith to critical thinking. “Questions are an integral part of the spiritual journey. The temptation is to despise questions and the uncertainty they represent. But uncertainty is a spiritual gift designed to help us to grow. From time to time, great questions arise in our hearts and our minds. When that happens to you, do not let your heart be troubled. Learn to enjoy uncertainty. Learn to love the questions. The questions are life” (p.237). The danger is to replace blind faith with postmodern deconstructionism. When this happens, then there are no answers but only questions, the journey becomes endless without any destination, and religion becomes redefined as how a group of religious people practice religion.

Kelly also recognizes that the goal is not to suppress desire but rather transform it, and to replace the scattered collection of childish mental networks with an integrated set of consistent mental networks. “People who are passionate, energetic, and enthusiastic about life have a sense of mission in their lives. They are not living their lives in the selfish pursuit of pleasure or possessions. They are living out a mission, and through that mission, they are making a difference in other people’s lives” (p.182).

He also says that holiness goes beyond the performance of Server actions to the development of new mental networks, which will result in transformed emotions. “Holiness does not dampen your emotions; it elevates them. Those who respond to God’s call to holiness are the most joyful people in history. They have a richer, more abundant experience of life, and they love more deeply than most people can never imagine. They enjoy life, all of life. Even in the midst of suffering they are able to maintain the peace and joy that are independent of the happenings and circumstances surrounding them. Holiness does not stifle us; it sets us free. The surest signs of holiness are not how often a person goes to church, how many hours he spends in prayer, what good spiritual books he has read, or even the number of good works he performs. The surest signs of holiness are an insatiable desire to become all God created us to be, an unwavering commitment to the will of God, and an unquenchable concern for unholy people. Living a holy life means letting our decisions be guided by the Holy Spirit” (p.72).

If one uses Teacher understanding to construct a mental concept of God and then acts in a way that is consistent with this understanding, then Teacher feelings will provide a positive, lasting emotion that will continue even when Mercy thought is experiencing personal pain. And if one’s image of God is based upon a universal Teacher understanding, then this positive Teacher emotion will be present in all of life, independently of happenings and circumstances. And if Teacher understanding is allowed to affect Mercy thought, then this will lead to Platonic forms and the concept of the Holy Spirit. However, forming the mental concept of a universal God is not trivial, and childish personal identity does not naturally act in a way that is consistent with a mental concept of God.

Thus, Kelly’s words sound hollow—more like something he wishes would be true rather than something that actually is true. For instance, Time Magazine says that Mother Teresa spent almost fifty years not sensing the presence of God, and the Catholic News Service relates, “The surprising aspect is how much she did despite feeling for years that God had abandoned her, he said. Her letters to her spiritual directors over the years are filled with references to ‘interior darkness,’ to feeling unloved by God and even to the temptation to doubt that God exists. She wrote to her spiritual director in a 1959-60 spiritual diary, ‘In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.’ In another letter she wrote that she wanted to love God ‘like he has not been loved,’ and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated. In the context of Mother Teresa’s life, the thoughts are not heresy, but signs of holiness, Father Kolodiejchuk said in a late-February interview. Mother Teresa was convinced God existed and had a plan for her life, even if she did not feel his presence, the priest said.”

And when Teacher understanding is inadequate, then instead of enjoying all of life, the tendency will be to limit oneself to a small portion of life—which one does when taking monastic vows, and to confuse joy that is independent of personal pleasure with joy that is based upon denying personal pleasure. One sees this confusion illustrated by St. Francis’ description of Perfect Joy (Kelly spends several pages describing St. Francis as an example to follow). Quoting from this story, “If, when we shall arrive at Saint Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are...if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall - then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.”

Kelly’s view of holiness also appears to be based in incomplete understanding. “Holiness is allowing God to fill every corner of your being; that is when we truly become the-best-version-of-ourselves. Holiness is being set apart for God...In any moment when you surrender to the will of God and choose to be the best version of yourself, you are holy. Any moment that you grasp as an opportunity to exercise virtue is a holy moment. But as quickly as this holiness can be found, it can be lost, because in any moment that you choose to be less than the best version of yourself, you become distracted from living a holy life...When you see this holiness of life in a person, even for a moment, it is inspiring” (p.73).

Notice the progression from always to sometimes to momentary. Kelly starts by saying that holiness is allowing God to fill every corner of one’s being, which is possible if one truly understands what it means for God to be a universal being. But then holiness becomes something that only happens part of the time, which can be lost in a moment. Thus, instead of being guided by the Teacher mental network of a universal understanding, one is now choosing between two sets of conflicting mental networks. Rather than allowing God to fill every corner, following God becomes something from which one is continually being distracted. But even that is better than being inspired by the occasional glimpse of holiness. That is why I suggest that Kelly’s words sound more like wishful thinking than a description of reality.

There also seems to be wishful thinking in Kelly’s admonition to follow the example of the Catholic saints. He says that “Our 2000 year Catholic history is full of extraordinary stories about ordinary people who opened their hearts to God and allow the life, teachings, and person of Jesus Christ to transform them...Pick up a photo book about Padre Pio. Do not even read the words; just look at the pictures, and you will have goosebumps” (p.131). Thanks to the Internet one can do just that with the click of a button. Yes, those are stunning pictures, and the life of Padre Pio is quite extraordinary. However, one also sees a form of Catholicism that is quite different from what Kelly is advocating. Unlike Kelly, Padre Pio appears to equate suffering with Christianity. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, “Padre Pio believed the love of God is inseparable from suffering and that suffering all things for the sake of God is the way for the soul to reach God. He felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell. During his period of spiritual suffering, his followers believe that Padre Pio was attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. His followers also believe that the Devil used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio’s torments.”

Catholicism in Crisis

We have seen that Kelly is consistently presenting a form of Catholicism which is considerably different than historical Catholicism. And yet Kelly says, “Who has embraced the adventure of salvation? Are there people available to guide you and me along the path today? The answer, of course, is the saints. But they have become unpopular among modern Catholics. We have stopped reading their stories for children. We have taken their statues from our churches. And we have stopped reading the books they wrote” (p.82).

Why have the stories and writings of the saints become unpopular among modern Catholics? Kelly tells us that Catholicism has undergone a profound transformation and he describes this upheaval in detail. First of all, the average person no longer places blind faith in authority. “Fifty years ago, people give their allegiance and support to those in leadership positions merely because they had a position of prominence or authority. Not anymore. People do not respect authority today. In fact, they question it, they are skeptical of it, and they are cynical toward it” (p.302).

This questioning of authority has been accompanied by a flood of modern technology. I have analyzed elsewhere how American evangelical Christianity has responded to this crisis of belief. Kelly describes here how this same combination has affected Catholic leadership. “There is a great fear that has seized the leadership of the Catholic Church. I am referring not only to bishops and priests but also to lay leadership. Fear has paralyzed all our leaders. The rapid change in the world over the past 75 years caught the church almost completely unprepared. 600 years passed between the invention of the plow and the invention of the automobile. Only 60 years passed between the invention of the automobile and the space age. It is during this period of rapid change that the whole model of the Church was challenged by a culture that completely reoriented the hearts and minds of humanity. Before this period of rapid change, many men were humbled by their lack of education and accepted the authority, teachings, and leadership of the Church based upon faith. But by the mid-1960s, men, women, and children of modern Western nations had begun questioning absolutely everything. This questioning is a wonderful opportunity to engage people in deeper ways, but the Church was caught unprepared for this massive cultural shift. This lightning-fast cultural shift put the Church on the back foot. This defensive posture was the beginning of the fear that has seized the Church” (p.303).

Kelly describes the effect this is having upon the Catholic Church. “In my meetings with Catholic leaders in the United States, Europe, and Australia, the same issues seem to emerge consistently: Our parishes are emptying: we lack real contact with the youth; divorce is destroying families, dividing communities, and alienating whole families from Catholicism for generations to come; vocations to the priesthood and religious life are scarce; the church is facing a growing marginalization in the wake of an ever intensifying secularity” (p.57).

Kelly also admits that the American Catholic Church has fallen short of its standard of holiness. “The past several years have been a tough time to be Catholic in America. In many ways this is a time of tragedy for the Church. The abuse of our children is a tragedy. The scandal of the cover-up is a tragedy. The fact that the entire priesthood has been tarnished by small group of troubled priests is a tragedy. The absence of bold and authentic leadership is a tragedy. Morality is low and the number of Catholics leaving the church is higher than ever before. The effects of all these tragedies are far-reaching. They have left society at large with a very low opinion of Catholicism and caused many Catholics to be ashamed of the church” (p.15).

As a result, even the organization of the Catholic Church is being questioned. “Perhaps we are doing it the wrong way. It is possible that the whole system or organization that has helped us in the past is now hurting us. Perhaps the provincial model of administration and organization—parish, diocese, and archdiocese, under Rome—is hurting us in a time when the whole world is quickly becoming a global village” (p.303).

Kelly tells us the method that he is using to come up with an answer. “In one hand, the Church holds truth, eternal and unchanging. In the other hand, she holds the practices that encourage and enable us to apply the unchanging truth of the gospel to the ever-changing circumstances of our daily lives...Most of all, we need to develop an intimate understanding of the relationship between any particular issue and the eternal and unchanging truths that guides the Church’s position on that issue” (p.282). This interplay between eternal truth and temporal expression is a key concept, and is discussed in more detail when examining Boersma’s concept of inhering. However, how does one distinguish between eternal and unchanging truth and temporal expression? What is solid and what can be allowed to change?

The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality

I mentioned before that science used to be defined as a study of how the natural world functions, but that science has been redefined by postmodern thought to be a description of how a group of scientists act and interact. One sees both of these approaches present in Kelly’s book. On the one hand, much of his analysis of Catholicism is based upon an understanding of how the mind functions. On the other hand, he proposes returning to what he calls the Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality, which is a description of how a group of people act and interact.

The second half of this essay will examine these Seven Pillars. In each case, I suggest that mental symmetry can be used to come up with a superior alternative, one which is both based upon how the mind functions and is consistent with what the Bible teaches.


The first pillar is Confession. Kelly relates, “I have spent much of my adult life speaking to groups around the world about the Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality. One of the questions I am asked most often is, “Why do you put confession first?... When John the Baptist first appeared in the desert of Judea, this was his message: ‘Repent, prepare the way of the Lord.’ Later, when Jesus began his ministry, he led with the message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (p.147)

As Kelly says, the word repentance means ‘turning back’. He continues, “I find myself needing to turn back to God many times a day, in ways small and large. It is not a matter of guilt and it is not a shameful thing. It is simply that at his side I am a better person...If we are honest with ourselves, if we can stomach a moment of truth, if we are willing to give truth a place in our lives above all our excuses and justifications, I think each of us discovers for ourselves that we need to turn back to God...Turning our backs on God is an internal action. It is quite possible for people to turn their backs on God and still go to church every Sunday. The external actions do not guarantee the internal disposition. Have you turned your back on God? Very few people turned their backs to God completely. Most of us just turn our backs on him in one or two areas of our lives” (p.147).

Kelly makes some significant points. He mentions that the goal of repentance is personal honesty, and says that people have a natural tendency to rationalize their inadequacies. He approaches sin from the positive viewpoint of failing to reach one’s potential rather than the negative viewpoint of stepping over the line and doing something forbidden. And he recognizes that repentance is something internal that goes beyond external behavior. As we shall see in a moment, mental symmetry takes a similar approach.

But do most of us only turn our backs on him in one or two areas, or is a deeper form of repentance required? In religious language, do humans suffer from original sin? The Calvinist view is that fallen man suffers from total depravity and is unable to do anything that will please God. As we saw before, what Kelly says, in contrast, is somewhat ambiguous. On the one hand, he says that “Deep within I do not want to think, say, and do these things. I do not want to be the lesser person; I want to be the best version of myself. I want to live by contributing to other people’s happiness, not their misery” (p.149). On the other hand, he says in the next paragraph that “I am a sinner and I need to be saved. I need to be saved from myself and from my sins...I need a Savior. It is the clarity of this realization that is life changing. This is what makes me eligible for membership in the Catholic Church. Jesus did not come for the healthy; he came for the sick, and he established the Church to continue his work.” And he says on a later page that “most people do not identify with sin because we see ourselves and others is generally good. This allows us to overlook the deeply rooted nature of sin in our attitudes, our habitual ways of thinking, and our orientation to life. But Jesus did not come simply to heal us of our external behaviors. He wants to reorient our attitudes, behaviors, and the way we think. Sin is obvious in the external actions of humanity throughout history, but beyond our external behaviors is also deeply psychological and emotional” (p.152).

Mental symmetry takes the following approach. Growing up in a physical body naturally causes mental networks to form in Mercy thought that are based in immediate gratification—making myself feel good regardless of the long-term results or the impact which my choices have upon those around me. Childish Mercy thought naturally tries to identify with what is pleasant and block off what is painful. This is consistent with what Kelly says on page 152. Teacher thought, in contrast, wants a universal understanding that applies to everyone at all times. Childish Mercy thought feels that the end justifies the means, whereas Teacher thought is based upon sequence and path—the means; Mercy thought blocks off unpleasant experiences, while Teacher thought wants an understanding that applies to all experiences. The result is that childish Mercy thought naturally functions in a manner that prevents Teacher thought from building a universal understanding of personal identity; in religious language, fallen man is naturally opposed to God. Unfortunately, these flawed Mercy mental networks provide the starting point for mental development, therefore questioning them attacks mental integrity. Thus, not only is fallen man naturally opposed to God, but fallen man is incapable of constructing an adequate concept of God.

Kelly explains this fairly well. “We all have spiritual disease. We all have sins. Some people like to pretend that they do not, but over time their sins spread through their lives like cancer in the body. Like cancer, if our sin is not addressed and arrested, in the end it will devour us. Other people try to justify their sins with all types of explanations, none of which will ever satisfy their own hearts. The truth is, I do things everyday that are contrary to the ways of God, things that stop me from being the-best-version-of-myself and so do you—every day... Our sins affect us physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, psychologically... Since it limits our future by chaining us to the past... If we take an honest inventory of our thoughts, words, and actions, it becomes abundantly clear that every one of us does things that are self-destructive, offensive to others, contrary to the natural laws of the universe, and in direct conflict with the ways of God” (p.157).

This does not mean that fallen man is incapable of pleasing God. It is possible for the childish mind to become educated and to construct general Teacher theories and to submit to this understanding in objective areas which do not directly touch personal identity. Therefore, it is important to learn from modern science and technology in areas where personal identity is not directly affected. However, whenever Teacher understanding comes into direct contact with childish personal identity, then rationalization will take over and understanding will in some way be forced to be consistent with the flawed Mercy mental networks of childish identity. Saying this another way, secular research is like a doughnut. There is a lot of food around the edge, but something always seems to be missing in the middle. In contrast, Kelly seems to be saying that the middle of the doughnut is okay and that only the rest of the doughnut needs fixing.

Thus, I suggest that the problem of sin and God boils down to conflicting mental networks. Remember that when mental networks collide, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other. A concept of God is based in a Teacher mental network; Teacher thought wants universal understanding. Childish identity is based in Mercy mental networks which function in a way that contradicts rational thought and universal understanding. Which of these two mental networks will squeeze the other one into its mold?

This is where the method of confession becomes critical. When a person sins, then Mercy mental networks of identity are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with universal Teacher understanding.[5] When a person confesses sin, he is using words—the building block of Teacher thought—to acknowledge that the Mercy mental networks of childish identity need to submit to the Teacher mental network of a concept of God. And when a person receives forgiveness from God, then words are being used to remove discrepancy between Mercy mental networks and universal Teacher understanding.

Obviously, the Teacher mental network of a concept of God will only win over the Mercy mental networks of personal identity if the Teacher mental network is triggered and if it has sufficient emotional power. The power of a Teacher mental network comes from its universality; the more universal a theory the more often it will be triggered and the greater will be its emotional content.

The word confession comes from the Greek term homologeo, which means to ‘agree with’ or ‘say the same thing’. Whenever a person confesses to a general theory, he is verbally acknowledging that this general theory applies to his current situation, which increases the generality of that theory.

Kelly says that “the catchcry of modern Christians has become, ‘I do not need to confess my sins to a priest. I can confess them straight to God.’ You can do anything you want; that is the nature of the freedom with which God endows us. But if you are serious about being Christian, then it follows that you are serious about seeking and doing the will of God” (p.152). He adds, “Perhaps the biggest danger with the direct-to-God approach is that it becomes all too easy to deceive ourselves, and then we begin to create God in our image. When it is ‘just me and God’ it is all too easy to project my own qualities and biases upon God. Then, rather than being created in the image of God, we begin to create God in our own fallen image” (p.153).

Let us use mental symmetry to sort through these quotes. I suggest that we are dealing with several distinct but related issues. First, there is the matter of self-deception, which involves Perceiver thought and Perceiver facts. Second, there is the standard that is being violated. The reason a person confesses sin is because he feels that he has violated some standard of thought or behavior. This involves Teacher thought, because Teacher thought feels bad when personal identity behaves in a way that violates the general rule. Third, there is the matter of feeling forgiven. A person confesses his sin in order to feel forgiven. Here we are dealing with Mercy thought and personal identity.

As Kelly states, self-deception is a major problem when addressing personal inadequacies. In the language of mental symmetry, self-deception warps the Teacher mental network of understanding to be consistent with the Mercy mental networks of childish identity, thus creating a ‘God in our own fallen image’. Kelly says that “I almost never see things as they really are. This is just one small part of the genius of Confession. Excellence in any field requires coaching. Coaches see things we do not, and they are able to hold us accountable” (p.153). I suggested earlier that it is very important to check Perceiver facts with other people. As Kelly says, we ‘almost never see things as they really are’ and others can ‘see things we do not’. Thus, it is very important to gain independent verification for facts, especially when these Perceiver facts apply to personal identity. However, checking facts is not the same as confessing my faults or being held accountable by others. In fact, I suggest that submitting personally to others actually makes it more difficult to check Perceiver information, because the emotional status of the expert or priest to whom I am submitting will tend to overwhelm Perceiver thought and prevent it from thinking. Thus, self-deception will become replaced by blind faith in authority. The danger of being deceived by myself is replaced by the danger of being deceived by someone else.

Now let us turn to the matter of the standard being violated. Kelly says that “while many Catholics claim the right to confess directly to God, my research suggests that, unlike many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, Catholics who use this argument tend not to be in the habit of confessing directly to God either. Too often it is used not to justify a different form of confession, but as an excuse to avoid confession altogether” (p.154).

Both the Catholic and the Protestant believer would agree that sin violates the standard of God. Similarly, mental symmetry suggests that a feeling of sin against God emerges when personal behavior is inconsistent with universal Teacher understanding. But God is an invisible being. Therefore, a person can only feel that he has sinned against God to the extent that he has a mental concept of God. Remember that Teacher emotions come from order-within-complexity. The more universal a theory, the stronger the Teacher emotions, and the more powerful the resulting Teacher mental network.

Therefore, whenever a person confesses to God, whenever he ‘agrees with’ his mental concept of God, he is increasing the generality of the underlying Teacher theory. Each confession will add more details to the general theory, extending its universality and increasing the power of the Teacher mental network. Similarly, whenever a person confesses to a priest, this increases the Teacher generality of a person’s concept of Church. The result is a vicious circle. If one always confesses to a priest, then, as Kelly says, one will not feel the need to confess directly to God.

Why is important to confess directly to God? A church, by its very nature, is incapable of being universal (or catholic with a small ‘c’), because it is composed of people who cannot read minds or see what is done in private, and it only governs a portion of human thought and activity. In contrast, a mental concept of God that is based in universal understanding is, by definition, aware of all thought and all activity. In Christian language, it is omnipresent and omniscient.

Kelly admits that confession to a priest has only limited effectiveness. “When you come out of confession you are sensitive to the thoughts, words, actions, people, and places that will not help you to walk with God. I do not know how long that sensitivity lasts for you, but after a while it wears off and you become indifferent to the things that will not help you to live a life of holiness or be true to yourself...When you go to Confession your soul is cleansed and an inner beauty shines from within you. But after a few weeks, the little sins begin to pile up, and before you know it, a big sin does not look so bad on top of the pile of small sins” (p.162). That is the problem of confessing to an institution that is not truly universal. In order to ‘top up’ the feeling, one has to return to the institution. In contrast, it is much easier to return to the concept of a universal being, because such a being is present everywhere. However, merely asserting that God is omnipresent is not sufficient. Instead, one must construct a mental concept of God that does apply everywhere.

Why does one want a universal concept of God? Because the personal salvation that one experiences will be limited by one’s concept of God. If I have a limited concept of God, then I can only experience limited personal salvation. If I want to experience more universal salvation, then I need a more universal concept of God.

Summarizing, when a general Teacher understanding is absent, then it is possible to partially make up for this by substituting a priest backed up by the organization of a church. However, when there is a general Teacher understanding of personal identity, then confessing to the Church becomes a hindrance to confessing to God. The result is a vicious circle, because confession increases Teacher generality. Thus, the more one confesses to a priest, the more effective it becomes to confess to a priest, and the less one sees the need of confessing to God. Saying this another way, if I am a dual citizen, then the more I use one passport, the more I will consider myself to be a citizen of that country.

Now let us turn to the feeling of forgiveness. Kelly says that “There is still nothing quite as wonderful as a clear conscience. Nothing fills us with joy in the same way. Ah, a clear conscience—it is the ultimate simple pleasure” (p.163). Remember that there is an inherent incompatibility between the Mercy mental networks of childish identity and the Teacher mental network of a concept of God. When a person sins, then Mercy mental networks are prompting behavior that violates general Teacher understanding. Forgiveness reconciles these two mental networks.

Kelly tells us what the priest says at the end of Confession. “Listen to those words of absolution: ‘By the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace, and absolve you from all your sins the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’”

What is the basis for this forgiveness? If I sin against some person and that person forgives me, then the mental network that was violated is the same as the mental network that gives the forgiveness. However, when a priest is giving absolution, then some third party is stepping in and saying that it has the power to bring peace between the two offended mental networks. Thus, when the priest says that God forgives me for my sins, then the underlying assumption is that the priest has sufficient power to forgive my sins. The priest may say that he is absolving me in the name of God, but if I confess my sins to the priest and not to God, and if I interact with God through the Church, then the real power lies with the Church and God is merely a figurehead.

The solution, I suggest, is to view God and church from a Teacher perspective. Because humans are finite beings with differing cognitive styles, each individual will only possess part of the general picture. Thus, finite humans have to pool their knowledge in order to get a more adequate concept of a universal God, and they have to cooperate in order to express more fully the universality of the Holy Spirit. Thus, there is a legitimate cognitive reason for church, where one interacts with God on a group level. However, a person should always realize—at a deep emotional level—that God is bigger than any physical church.

For instance, mental symmetry suggests that there is an extensive relationship between cognitive structure, scientific thought, and religious belief, and we are continually translating between these various domains. In my experience, most Christians view this as an unusual approach. Even though they say that God is universal, they assume that God works primarily through either their church or the church. If one truly recognizes that God is bigger than any church, then one will not view God as merely a figurehead. However, if a person believes that God works only through his church, then one may say that one is following God, but in actual fact, the voice of the church has replaced the voice of God.

But what about John 20, which Kelly quotes? This passage is often used to justify giving absolution. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’” Those who are familiar with Bible translations will notice that all my quotes are from the New American Standard version. I like this translation because it translates words and tenses accurately. Notice the unusual verb tense in this passage—which is usually mistranslated. Chronologically speaking, ‘their sins have been forgiven them’ comes before ‘if you forgive the sins’ and not the other way around. Notice also that this phrase directly follows the receiving of the Holy Spirit. In the language of mental symmetry, if a person is guided by Platonic forms, then his specific choices will reflect these Platonic forms. In religious language, if a person receives the Holy Spirit, then his responses to sin will be accurate.[6]

There is another problem with giving absolution. If forgiveness of sin against God is not followed by a change in personal character, then forgiveness turns into a more subtle form of rationalization. That is because the underlying problem is colliding mental networks. Which mental network stays the same and which one changes, the Teacher mental network of God or the Mercy mental networks of childish identity? If confession and forgiveness do not change personal behavior, then this means that the Mercy mental networks of childish identity are really in charge, and they are only pretending to submit to the Teacher mental network of God.

The real problem, I suggest, is that people are not universal. I may feel that I need to change when I am in church on Sunday, but this pressure to change will not be present on Friday night when I am having fun because I am not thinking about either the church or the priest. In contrast, the mental concept of a universal God is always present. Therefore, it will exhibit continual pressure upon childish personal identity, and this continual pressure will force childish personal identity to fall apart and be reassembled in adult form.

I suggested earlier that Kelly’s Christianity changes peripheral aspects of personal identity but appears deficient at transforming the core of personal identity. I suggest that this is an unavoidable side effect of basing Christianity upon the institution of the Catholic Church rather than the mental concept of a universal God and the Platonic form of an invisible church. In simple terms, the salvation that a person experiences can only extend as far as his mental concept of God. Kelly has taken significant steps in the direction of universal understanding, but he is still tied to the concept of the Catholic Church.

The real purpose of confession and personal honesty is to construct a mental concept of God, which I suggest is the first stage in the three stage process of personal salvation. Once a sufficiently potent image of God has been formed, then the resulting Teacher understanding will naturally drive a person to act in a righteous manner, which is the second stage of personal salvation. (Dying to self is the third stage.) In religious language, faith leads to works; in the language of the original Greek, guarding God’s word (tereo) is followed by doing God’s word (poieo). Catholicism, with its focus upon actions, largely skips the first stage and goes directly to the second.

If one attempts to bring childish identity in Mercy thought directly into contact with a general understanding in Teacher thought, then each mental network will demand the destruction of the other. Thus, the selfish person will ignore God while the person who follows God will practice self-denial. The solution is to bridge these two indirectly with the help of a Contributor plan. A plan is a structure of interconnected steps that can be viewed either as a sequence for personal identity to follow or as a Teacher system of order-within-complexity. When the purpose of a Contributor plan is to build a general Teacher understanding, then the Contributor plan takes the form of a curriculum or a system of education. From the viewpoint of the student, a school is a path of education that must be followed in order to graduate. From the viewpoint of the instructor, a school is a system of education—a curriculum—that packages knowledge in a structured manner. When a student enrolls in a school, his status changes from being an ignorant, uneducated person to being a member of a structured system of education. An ignorant, uneducated person brings pain to Teacher thought, whereas a member of a structured educational system brings Teacher pleasure.

In the language of mental symmetry, a school system is a Contributor incarnation that combines personal salvation with general understanding. When a person enrolls in a school, he is asking a Contributor incarnation to mediate between him and general understanding.

Similarly, when the evangelical Christian asks Jesus the Incarnation to forgive his sins and reconcile him with God, he is mentally enrolling in a ‘plan of salvation’ and asking Jesus to mediate between him and God. The person who takes the mental step of ‘asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior’ will feel that his sins have been forgiven by God, because Teacher thought now views childish personal identity through the lens of a Contributor plan. Instead of being regarded by God as a childish bundle of chaos, he is now regarded by God as a member of the school of salvation. The beginning student may know very little, but he is still regarded as a student of the school. Similarly, the beginning Christian is not yet righteous, but he has been ‘declared righteous’. If the student continues through school, then he will eventually become educated. Likewise, the Christian who is declared righteous will eventually become righteous.

This initial step of ‘asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior’ sets up the mental mechanism that is required to confess to God. Because taking this step leads to the feeling of being forgiven by God, the tendency is for the evangelical Christian to think that the primary goal is to get people to say the prayer of salvation so that they can feel forgiven by God. Instead, the prayer of salvation is a means to an end. The goal is to construct a mental concept of God. This requires personal honesty—accepting facts about myself no matter how bad they make me feel. The prayer of salvation makes this personal honesty possible.

In traditional Catholicism, the Church acts as a Contributor incarnation that bridges God and man. Instead of becoming a member of the invisible school of salvation, the Catholic becomes a baptized member of the Church. From the vantage point of the individual Catholic, entering the Church means embarking upon a path of personal salvation, whereas the Church as a whole is a general structure that represents the Teacher order-within-complexity of God. And the Catholic path of salvation often includes attending a Catholic school and receiving a Catholic education.

Christianity and education are strongly related. Kelly says that “prior to the Church’s introduction of education for the common man, education was reserved only for the nobility. Almost the entire Western world is educated today because of the Church’s pioneering role in universal education” (p.16).

So which is better, the Protestant version of confessing to God or the Catholic version of confessing to the priest? The Protestant version has the potential of being more universal and thus more effective, but this universality only becomes apparent to the extent that a person constructs a mental concept of God. The evangelical Christian who practices blind faith in the Bible may talk about asking Jesus to be the Lord of his life and confessing his sins to God, but in practice only a small fraction of his personal existence is enrolled in a school of personal salvation. And as I have already mentioned, the tendency is for the evangelical Christian to think that the goal is to say the prayer of salvation and not to realize that this is merely the first step of enrolling in a school of salvation.

The danger with the Catholic version is a tendency to forget about the internal process and focus solely upon the physical institution and the verbal confession. This, I suggest, is another example of equating the Platonic form with the physical symbol and then focusing solely upon the physical symbol.

I also suggest that it is psychologically damaging for a priest to fill his mind with people’s personal garbage. For instance, during the last ten years of his life, John Vianney spent 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional, listening to people confess. That would be enough to make anyone depressed. As it says in Philippians 4 (which Kelly quotes on page 176), “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” The priest who is continually listening to confession is not following this advice.

While it is unhealthy and inappropriate to listen to everyone’s personal problems, mental symmetry suggests a possible version of Confession that would be mentally healthy. Kelly touches upon this aspect of Confession. “I almost never see things as they really are. This is just one small part of the genius of Confession. Excellence in any field requires coaching. Coaches see things we do not, and they are able to hold us accountable” (p.153). Mental symmetry, with its basis in cognitive styles, is able to describe and analyze a vast range of human personality. This makes it possible to talk about personal issues indirectly in an abstract manner.

For instance, the male Contributor person finds it especially difficult to apologize. When I encounter this trait, I do not view it from the Mercy perspective of the personal behavior of some individual, but rather from the Teacher perspective of illustrating an aspect of the cognitive style of Contributor. Viewing such a character flaw from a Mercy perspective requires digging into personal details—which focuses upon the sin of childish identity. However, if this character flaw is seen as a generic trait of the Contributor person, then advice can also be given in general terms, and encountering this character flaw extends one’s Teacher understanding of human personality. Confession then turns into research, and the priest who listens to confession is actually constructing a mental concept of God, because he is extending the generality of the Teacher theory that applies to personal identity.

The inherent limitation of confessing one’s sins to people can be seen in Kelly’s advice regarding temptation. “There are some immutable truths when it comes to our struggle with temptation. The first is this: Don’t dialogue with it. When temptation whispers in your ear, turn away” (p.164). He then points out the futility of trying not to think about something. “The same thing happens when we try not to dialogue with temptation by thinking about not dialoguing with temptation. We end up in a dialogue with temptation. What we focus on increases in our lives. We have to turn our focus away from what stops us from experiencing our full potential in Jesus and place our focus on what will cause us to experience the life Jesus invites us to in him. It is not enough not to dialogue with temptation. We have to replace the dialogue of temptation with another type of dialogue. What we call that other type of dialogue? Prayer. In order to overcome temptation we have to pray unceasingly in the midst of it” (p.164).

We saw earlier that Kelly views Christianity primarily as the building of new habits. In other words, instead of merely resisting what is negative, Kelly advocates building a positive alternative. This is good advice but it still results in the coexistence of good and evil. Constructing new habits creates a new personal identity, but this new identity still exists alongside childish identity.

A mental concept of God that is based in Teacher understanding can go further—by dialoguing with temptation. If all sin leads to long-term pain, then the way to deal with temptation is to mentally follow it to its logical conclusion. For instance, suppose that I am tempted to sleep with someone. I find myself attracted to that person and I know that sex would feel good. But, what comes next? If the sex is not repeated, then I have filled my mind with a strong mental network which cannot be satisfied. I began with a sexual urge that was not being satisfied. A one night stand leaves me with a stronger sexual urge that is not being satisfied. Plus, I now have mental baggage that makes it more difficult for me to enjoy a close relationship with another person. Thus, the long-term result is more mental pain. The way to avoid this long-term emotional pain is to have a long-term relationship. This type of dialogue with temptation is capable of tearing down the mental networks of childish identity and not just leaving them intact alongside the new identity.

Obviously, this type of rational approach will only work if a person has a sufficiently potent mental concept of God, and that will only happen if one confesses to God and not to people. Saying this another way, in order to overcome the Mercy mental networks of childish identity, what is required is the Teacher mental network of an image of God.

Daily Prayer

The second pillar of Catholicism is daily prayer. Kelly makes a number of meaningful statements about prayer. I suggest that mental symmetry can be used to analyze these statements and suggest some improvements.

Kelly says that he prays for three reasons. “First, I pray to make sense of things. Life is often complex and confusing, but in the midst of all that, God always seems to present a simple path. The ways of the Lord may not be easy, and at times may be tremendously difficult, but they are almost always simple” (p.172). Mental symmetry suggests that an image of God is based in Teacher thought. If one wishes to interact with a mental concept of God, then it makes sense to use words, because words are the basic building blocks for Teacher thought. Kelly is describing the essence of Teacher thought: It brings order to complexity, it looks for simplicity, it deals with path and sequence, and it is independent of Mercy emotions. Thus, Kelly is describing the mental result of interacting with a mental concept of God that is based in Teacher understanding. This does not necessarily mean that prayer is only a cognitive interaction with a mental concept of God. However, it appears that any external interaction with a real God is consistent with this internal interaction.

Kelly continues, “I also pray because I want to live life deeply and deliberately. I am not confused about how precious a gift life is, and I want to fully experience that gift” (p.172). This is also a good psychological reason for prayer. A very effective way of increasing emotional intensity is to add another source of emotions. Mercy emotions focus upon the immediate situation, whereas Teacher thought examines how this specific situation fits into the grand scheme. Teacher emotion plus Mercy emotion has the potential of being far more meaningful than Mercy emotion by itself.

Kelly adds, “The third of the very practical reasons I pray is to build up the kind of inner density required to prevent the culture from swallowing me up...This inner strength, or density, will allow us to resist the cultural pressure to abandon our values, our true selves, and God. If we are going to walk with God and become the-best-version-of-ourselves, we need this inner density, which seems to be created by a combination of grace and discipline. This inner density is not something we can obtain for ourselves; it is a gift God freely gives us when we cooperate with his plan for our lives. When we have this density within this, we will have a Christian effect on our environment. We do not have this density, our environment has an effect on us” (p.172).

What Kelly is stating here is profound—and also simple to understand in terms of mental symmetry. Kelly is simply describing dueling mental networks. Praying to God connects personal identity with the Teacher mental network of a concept of God, leading to what Kelly calls inner density. If personal identity is not guided by the Teacher mental network of a concept of God, then it will be influenced by the mental networks that represent culture.

Mental networks form an emotional hierarchy; lesser mental networks are forced to conform to the structure of the dominant mental network. Kelly gives the illustration of shooting a foul ball in basketball. “If you imagine yourself making the shot, you will make the shot. What if, in that brief time, you have 47 thoughts of missing the shot and only 13 thoughts of making the shot? What will happen then? You’ll miss it. Why? Because the actions of your life are determined by your most dominant thought” (p.174).

But what makes a mental network dominant? Here I suggest that Kelly advises a partial answer while describing a better answer. The partial answer which Kelly suggests is the forming of mental habits, which extends his earlier advice about forming physical habits. “Earlier we said that the difference between the saints and those who have been less successful in living the Christian life was that the saints affixed their singleness of purpose on doing the will of God and that they had better habits. These habits were not only external habits but also internal habits. One of those critical internal habits was the habit of the mind we call contemplation. Too often we just let our thoughts wander. God invites us to focus our thoughts, and the discipline of daily prayer teaches us how to direct those thoughts toward the higher things” (p.176).

I suggest that we are dealing here with the difference between human righteousness and divine righteousness. This is discussed elsewhere and will be summarized briefly here. I have suggested that science is a search for how the natural world functions, while postmodern thought has redefined science to be a description of how scientists function. A similar principle applies to righteousness. We have defined righteousness as performing Server actions that are consistent with Teacher understanding.

That leads us to the following question. What comes first, the Teacher understanding or the Server actions? Whenever I, or my group of people, repeat a certain set of Server actions, Teacher thought will notice the similarity between all of these actions and come up with a general theory. This describes the path of discipline, which Kelly advocates. This corresponds to human righteousness, because it begins by a person repeating actions, and then ends up with a Teacher understanding, which expresses itself as a mental concept of God.

The alternative is to observe what sequences are naturally repeated, come up with a Teacher theory that explains these sequences, and then act in a way that is consistent with this understanding. This describes divine righteousness, because it begins with a Teacher understanding of nature and then adds Server actions. That is why I suggest that righteousness is the second stage of personal salvation. The first stage uses personal honesty to construct a mental concept of God, while the second stage adds action to understanding. Notice that I am not just observing actions that are repeated by other people, because that describes copying, which is another form of human righteousness. Rather, I am observing sequences that occur naturally in my environment.

There are two problems with human righteousness. First, there is no guarantee that it is correct. Any action that is repeated sufficient times, either by me or by others, will lead to a Teacher theory. Thus, if one simply focuses upon forming new habits, there is no guarantee that these new habits are good habits. Kelly tries to solve this problem by imitating the saints, but this simply transfers the problem. How does one know that the saints had good habits, especially when Kelly’s version of Catholicism is significantly different than historical Catholicism? Divine righteousness, in contrast, begins by looking for universal sequences. How does nature function, and how does the mind function? The first describes physical science, the second cognitive science.

The second problem with human righteousness is that it is too narrow. As the saying goes, for the person who has a hammer, everything is a nail. Therefore, the artisan or skilled laborer has a natural tendency to interpret all of existence in the light of his personal skills. In Kelly’s case, one finds sports illustrations popping up continually. These may be helpful but they do not extend beyond the pragmatic side of human existence.

Kelly mentions the difference between these two forms of righteousness in an illustration. “Every morning I would stop by church, sit toward the back, plan my day, and tell God what I wanted. For a while this was the depth of my prayer life...Then I stumbled onto the question that would change my life forever: God, what do you think I should do? With that question my life began to change. Asking that question marked a new beginning in my life. Up until then, I had only ever prayed, Listen up, God, your servant is speaking. But in that moment of spontaneous prayer the Spirit that guides us all led me to pray, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. It was perhaps the first moment of honest and humble prayer in my life. Before that day, I had only been interested in telling God what my will was. Now for the first time I was asking God to reveal his will.” (p.181).

Notice how the direction of Kelly’s prayer changed. It began by going from Server to Teacher—from human action to concept of God. It became transformed when it started to go from Teacher to Server—from concept of God to human action.

One byproduct of basing prayer upon human righteousness and the discipline of Server repetition is that prayer becomes hard work. “The truth is, prayer is perhaps the most difficult thing we will ever do. From time to time, we may get carried away by a moment of inspiration our prayer, but for the most part prayer is hard work—work well worth doing, but hard work nonetheless” (p.170). That is because Server thought must do a lot of repetition before Teacher emotion kicks in.

Kelly describes what it feels like to start with Teacher thought. “A few months ago I was visiting a grade school, and the child, perhaps seven years old, asked me, ‘Why do you pray?’... I asked him the same question he asked me: ‘Why do you pray?’ He did not have to think about it. Spontaneously and casually he said, ‘Well, God is my friend, and friends like to know what is going on in each other’s lives” (p.171).

The child’s answer is both perceptive and incomplete. The child is correct in saying the prayer involves an interaction between two people, but this is not an interaction between the Mercy mental network that represents personal identity and the Mercy mental network that represents another person, but rather between the Mercy mental network of personal identity and the Teacher mental network of a concept of God. Saying this another way, God is a person and it is possible to have a friendship with God, but if one wishes to understand the nature of God one must use Teacher thought and not Mercy thought.[7]

The Mass

Kelly begins his discussion of the Mass with a rather dismal observation. “The Mass is at the center of Catholic tradition, and yet, the general consensus today seems to be that the Mass is boring. We have become used to hearing children say, ‘I do not want to go to church. Mass is boring!’ Children have been saying this for generations. The disturbing reality is that more and more adults are saying, ‘Mass is boring!’ ‘It is not relevant to my modern life!’ ‘I do not get anything out of it!’ This is now a multigenerational problem, and one that deserves urgent attention. On any given Sunday if I look around church I see a large number of men, women, and children who are disengaged. Not distracted at moments, but massively disengaged throughout the whole Mass ” (p.199).

Exhorter thought generates energy for the mind and boredom is a sign that Exhorter thought is not finding anything interesting or exciting. Exhorter excitement requires novelty. The obvious way to introduce novelty is by making changes. Kelly has tried this and found that it is not enough. “We have tried to make Mass more engaging by changing things, adding things, involving more and more people, but despite all of this, an increasing number of people have stopped attending Mass on a regular basis and profess to be bored or actively disengaged during Mass” (p.199).

I suggest that a deeper level of boredom comes from the interaction between Exhorter thought and Perceiver facts and Server sequences. When facts and sequences are only partially known, then the incomplete knowledge leaves room for Exhorter imagination. Saying this another way, uncertainty makes it possible for Exhorter thought to exaggerate. This happens, for instance, when one hears an unknown noise in the middle of the night. It could be a burglar, a raccoon, or an alley cat. The uncertainty gives freedom to imagination, and the way to control imagination is by gaining more knowledge about the situation.

Before science, life had a sense of mystery, because knowledge was incomplete. As a result, Exhorter thought could always explore nooks and crannies of ignorance for excitement. Modern man has lost this sense of mystery because he knows too much. For instance, maps of the world used to be incomplete with blank spaces labeled terra incognita, and these unknown locations were sometimes labeled ‘Here be dragons’. Today, every spot on Earth can be seen with instant clarity on Google Earth. As Kelly mentions, some theologians advocate restoring a sense of mystery by returning to a form of medieval thought.

Kelly rejects this option but advocates Eucharist adoration, which is similar. Perceiver thought notices similarities between objects locations leading to object recognition. A holy object, such as the Eucharist, is regarded as different than normal objects. Because normal Perceiver object recognition is not being allowed to function with holy objects, Exhorter thought is free to imagine, and this Exhorter excitement can be increased by being near the holy item. Thus, Eucharist adoration is psychologically like visiting Disneyland, because both are Magic Kingdoms, which are different than real life. I still remember the last time I went to Disneyland. The magic was ruined because I kept recognizing the normal objects behind the illusion.

And that is the problem with using holiness and ignorance to maintain a sense of mystery. Science and mystery fight each other. This is actually a deep theological problem. If God is based in universal Teacher understanding, then how can God be associated with experiences and objects that violate universal Teacher understanding? This is a paradox and Teacher thought does not like paradoxes. If paradox is made a primary trait of God, then the result is actually an un-theory, because Teacher thought has brought order to complexity by concluding that it is not possible to bring order to complexity.

Excitement can be combined with knowledge if the knowledge is stated in general terms. This makes it possible to create the variety and novelty that Exhorter thought requires. For instance, I know that I will get hungry tomorrow and want to eat. This is a certain fact, and this fact will be repeated every day of my life. If I ate fried potatoes every day, then that would be boring. But Exhorter thought can find excitement in eating because I vary my diet. I know that I will eat, but I do not know what I will eat. In other words, what is solid is the Platonic form of food rather than a specific type of food. Similarly, if I drop an object, I know that it will fall to the ground. This Server sequence is scientifically certain. But science does not indicate what will fall, where it will fall, and what the damage will be. Thus, the laws of science leave room for personal excitement because they are general laws.

When physical symbol are equated with Platonic forms then knowledge will automatically lead to boredom, because the focus is upon a specific physical symbol or ritual which is not permitted to change. The only way to introduce Exhorter excitement is through the mystery of the unknown. Kelly says, “Just as in the time of Francis of Assisi, for many modern Catholics Mass (and the practice of religion) has become more of a habit and a social gathering than an expression of any genuine spiritual conviction. On my way to Mass this morning, it occurred to me that if Muslims believed that God was truly present in their mosques, and that by some mystical power they could receive and consume him in the form of bread and wine, they would crawl over red-hot broken glass for the chance. But as Catholics, we are so unaware of the mystery and the privilege that most of us cannot be bothered to show up to church on Sunday and many of those who do can hardly wait to get out” (p.207).

Why would Muslims ‘crawl over red-hot broken glass to consume God’? Because Muslims would find consuming God a novel concept. Thus, they would find it exciting—for a while. But most Catholics do not find this exciting because for them it is not a new concept. Or, as Kelly puts it, “we have lost our sense of wonder. This is true in almost every area of our lives, but particularly when it comes to matters of faith and spirituality. We have lost the quintessential quality of childhood—wonder” (p.207).

Kelly follows by asking some questions. “Do you experience the wonder? Are you able to look beyond what appears to be routine actions of the Mass to the timeless meaning? Do you sense the mystery and power of receiving and consuming Christ in the Eucharist? Do you marvel at the fact? If we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, then the power unleashed within us by the consumption of the Eucharist is immeasurable” (p.207).

Notice the juxtaposition of mystery and Platonic forms. On the one hand, he asks, ‘Do you experience the wonder?’ On the other hand, he says ‘Are you able to look beyond the routine actions to the timeless meaning?’ However, both of these suggestions have an inherent problem.

Let us look first at the wonder. Wikipedia says that “Magical thinking is the identification of causal relationships between actions and events, where scientific consensus says that there is none. In religion, folk religion and superstition the correlation posited is between religious ritual, prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or recompense. In clinical psychology, magical thinking can cause a patient to experience fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because of an assumed correlation between doing so and threatening calamities. Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.” Kelly is saying that believing that Christ is present in the Eucharist will unleash immeasurable power—that ‘thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world’. As the Wikipedia article says, this type of magical thinking is incompatible with scientific thought. But we live in a scientific world, surrounded by technology—the fruit of science. Therefore, common sense will cause the average person to instinctively reject magical thinking.

Now let us look at the timeless meaning. When an action appears to be routine, then it will be difficult to look beyond action to timeless meaning. If there are many similar actions, then Teacher thought will notice the common pattern and come up with a general theory. Exhorter thought will then find the combination of Teacher emotion and variation exciting. But when action is routine—when the same thing is done over and over again, then there is no Teacher order-within-complexity and Exhorter thought will find the repetition boring. Saying this another way, when everybody sings the same song in unison, then there is no structure and no variation. But when people sing similar songs in harmony, then there is both structure and variation. Thus, I suggest that the real problem is the doctrine of transubstantiation—equating the physical symbol with the Platonic form, because it turns the harmony of a Platonic form into the endlessly repeated melody of a holy symbol.

The Mass then has to acquire its generality and variety from some other source. Kelly tells us what this source is. “At every moment of every day the Mass is being celebrated all over the world and we are praying as Catholics not only for ourselves and our own needs, for the whole human family. Beyond our own personal experience of the mass, it is important to be aware of the much greater scope of it. It is in the Mass that the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world come together to share a common experience” (p. 221). Notice that the Mass is acquiring Teacher order-within-complexity not from the Mass itself but from the fact that many different people from many different cultures and many different locations are performing the same routine action. Thus the meaning has nothing to do with the Mass itself but comes rather from the people who are celebrating the Mass.

Similarly, the example which Kelly gives of a meaningful Mass acquires its meaning from the sense of mystery that comes from celebrating a forbidden rite in a mysterious location. Kelly talks about Chinese Catholics under communism going in the middle of the night to a wall in a clearing in the forest in which ‘the host’ was hidden behind a removable brick. Kelly says that “Once or twice a week they would go to the wall in the middle of the night, risking their lives, to spend an hour with Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist. The following night, the priest said Mass at the wall and replaced the host. It was one of the highlights of his priesthood” (p.189). This is a touching story, but I suggest that it was the unusual circumstances that made the Eucharist feel special and not the Eucharist itself.

Kelly claims that the Mass itself has a universal meaning. “The wisdom of regular worship has a much deeper meaning than bringing us all together once a week; it is a profound reflection of God’s blueprint for all of creation... The Church bases the calendar on the rhythm that God has placed at the center of creation. In turn, the Church hopes this will help us to place this essential rhythm at the center of our own lives” (p.221). But claiming is not the same as demonstrating. Thus, I suggest that we are dealing here with medieval type analogical thinking, which looks for similarities based upon surface resemblance. I have attempted to analyze medieval thinking in another essay.

As I mentioned, the Eucharist does have universal cognitive significance. Left to itself, personal identity clings to what it prefers, while practical Contributor thought by itself improves things but not people. When these two combine, the result is personal improvement, and when personal identity combines with integrated Contributor thought, the result is personal salvation. This is an internal, general cognitive principle—a Platonic form, and the Eucharist is a valid physical symbol of this Platonic form.

Kelly actually suggests adding meaning to the Mass by including elements of this Platonic form. First, he says that one should approach the Mass with the attitude of becoming a better person. “When you walk in the mass next Sunday, simply ask God in the quiet of your heart, God, show me one way in this Mass that I can become a better-version-of-myself this week! Then listen.” (p.204). He also suggests keeping a spiritual journal. “Write down inside the front cover, ‘God, show me one way in this Mass that I can become a better version of myself this week!’ Not ‘God, show me one way in this Mass my spouse can become a better version of him/herself this week!’...Then bring that Journal to Church with you on Sunday. Try to arrive a few minutes early for Mass...If you do that every Sunday for a year your Mass Journal will become an incredibly powerful spiritual tool. You will be able to take it to your daily prayer and pass from page to page. Each page will inspire a deeply personal dialogue between you and God” (p.204). In the language of mental symmetry, Kelly is talking about integrating personal identity with practical Contributor thought.

Second, Kelly says, “preparation may be the most powerful tool at your disposal to improve your experience of the Mass...I would like to suggest that once a week, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday, you take the time to read and reflect upon the coming Sunday’s Gospel. Just start with the Gospel. Perhaps in time to move on to reflect on all of the readings, but for now just start with the Gospel... Read next Sunday’s Gospel slowly and pick out a word or phrase that strikes you or jumps out at you. Take turns reading and then explaining which word jumped out at you” (p.202). Picking out significant words is actually a simple form of intellectual Contributor thought.

Thus, Kelly’s two suggestions will actually help bring personal identity together with a combination of practical Contributor thought and intellectual Contributor thought. And Kelly is seeding intellectual Contributor thought upon the words of the Bible—a book which appears to be supernaturally related to God and mental wholeness.

That leaves us posing our familiar question. Why combine the good advice with the magical thinking? Why not just follow the good advice?

The Bible

The next pillar of Catholicism is the Bible. We have seen that Protestantism focuses upon Perceiver facts while Catholicism emphasizes Server actions. This difference in approach can also be seen in Kelly’s discussion of the Bible.

For Kelly, the Bible is primarily a story. “The Bible is the single story that has shaped and is shaping human history. At the same time, it is a collection of stories. We find that the greatest stories ever told are in the Bible, and every other story is only a variation of one of the biblical tales that echo throughout history. The reason they echo throughout history is because they are the stories of men and women as they struggle to know themselves, to know God, and to work out their salvation. In this way they are the stories of all men and women, and thus are ever fresh” (p.234)

These stories describe the Server journey of learning to ‘walk with God’. “The stories that fill the Bible of the stories of hundreds of men and women and their struggles to walk with God, to make the journey of the soul, to surrender and allow God to save them. These are the stories of men and women who tried and succeeded, or struggled and failed in their quest to become the-best-version-of-themselves. In some of these characters we find great success in this journey. In others we find great failure” (p.235).

These stories help us to understand our personal journeys. “These men and women afford you the opportunity to look deep into your divided heart and see yourself—the good and the bad, that which is worthy and that which is in need of redemption. Until you learn to see yourself in every person in the Scriptures, you have not read the Bible” (p.235).

Kelly emphasizes approaching Jesus as a person and not just as a historical figure. “Jesus lived a life on this earth. He ate, he drank, and he walked on the street. Do you know him as a person? Or is he just a historical figure to you? It is crucial that we move beyond the façade of the story of Jesus Christ. We must delve deep into his life and teachings. We must allow his Spirit to flood the thoughts, words, and actions of our daily lives. In order to do all this it is necessary that we come to know the Gospels intimately...Get to know Jesus. Read the Gospels. Never let a day pass without pondering a few of the precious words in those four books” (p.231).

Kelly takes several pages to describe the process by which the Bible was written. “The Bible was not written all at once, nor was it all written by one person. In fact, 1000 years elapsed between the writing of the book of Genesis and the writing of the book of Revelation... The Old Testament was written and compiled between the 12th-century and the second century BC. It is made up of 46 books, and is divided into three categories: the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings” (p.226)

Kelly emphasizes that the Bible cannot be separated from the Server actions of those who followed the Bible. “It is this dynamic interaction between the Scriptures and tradition that keeps the word alive. If you separate the Scriptures from the living, breathing institution they were entrusted to, they lose their life. This is a major point of contention between Catholics and other non-Catholic Christians” (p.226).

Notice that the emphasis is almost exclusively upon Server actions and pragmatic thought. What is missing from this discussion is Perceiver facts and doctrine. The Bible is full of stories that illustrate the process of building a more accurate concept of God and experiencing personal transformation. But it is more than just a set of stories. It is also a source of Perceiver facts and Perceiver doctrines, which is the aspect of the Bible that Protestants emphasize.

Kelly accuses Protestants of ‘kidnapping’ the Bible from Catholics. “Where did the Bible come from? How did we come to be blessed with such a rare treasure? I begin our discussion of the Scriptures with these questions because in recent Christian history the Bible has been kidnapped by Protestant and evangelical Christians...Chances are, if the conversation proceeds to any length, [Protestants] will approach the idea that the Bible is the one and only source of inspiration, direction, and revelation. This of course, is a direct attack upon the Catholic Church. It may be carefully masked or subtly presented. Those presenting the idea may not even be aware that it is an attack on Catholicism. But as Catholics, we believe that both the ‘Sacred Scriptures and sacred tradition form one sacred deposit of the word of God’. God reveals himself in nature, he reveals himself in the Scriptures, and he reveals himself in the life of the Church. (p.225).

Whenever there are two competing mental networks, then one will take precedence over the other. According to this Catholic webpage, the Church takes precedence over the Bible, because the Church was the source of the Bible. Kelly agrees. “The Catholic Church, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, is responsible for the formulation, preservation, and integrity of the sacred Scriptures. For 1500 years, when there were no Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Methodists, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Non-denominationals, or any other Christian Church of any type. The Catholic Church preserved the Scriptures from error, saved them from destruction and extinction, multiplied them in every language under the sun, and conveyed the truths they contained to people everywhere” (p.229).

Thus, when the Protestant views the Bible as the ultimate authority, the Catholic sees this as an attack upon the pre-eminence of the Catholic Church, as well as the role that the Catholic Church played in history of the Bible. “With this clear and concise understanding of the history of the Scriptures, the Protestant theory of sola scriptura, or ‘the Bible and the Bible alone,’ self-destructs into the most monumental case of well-argued nonsense in the history of humanity’” (p.229).

Kelly says that people cannot be trusted to interpret the Bible properly, therefore they need the help of the Catholic Church. “The Bible is the most profound and sublime collection of writings in human history. It therefore goes without saying that these writings are difficult to understand. Individual interpretation of the Bible is a very slippery path that leads people to great confusion, heartache, and distress. The history of Christianity in the past 500 years is proof enough of this point. This is why the Catholic Church has, in her wisdom, so vigorously defended her sole right to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures throughout history” (p.230).

Now that we understand what Kelly and the Catholic Church are saying about the Bible, let us examine the topic from the viewpoint of mental symmetry. I suggest that we can use the concept of colliding mental networks to understand the underlying cognitive issues. We already seen that childish identity is composed of Mercy mental networks that by their very nature oppose general understanding. Whenever these mental networks are triggered, then they will impose their structure upon the rest of thought, causing a person to rationalize his personal shortcomings. Objective science sidesteps this problem by avoiding the Mercy mental networks of personal identity and by gathering Perceiver facts through empirical observation. The result is a rational understanding about the natural world. This rational understanding forms into a Teacher mental network, which then transforms the way that people interact with physical reality.

In contrast to the objective theories of science that avoid personal identity, a mental concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. Therefore, the Mercy mental networks of childish identity will be triggered and they will tend to twist understanding. As Kelly says, individual interpretation of the Bible is a slippery path that can lead to confusion. Catholicism addresses this problem by balancing the Mercy mental networks of childish identity with the Mercy mental networks of Church tradition. To a lesser extent, both science and Protestant Christianity do something similar. Science protects itself from private interpretation through peer review and the quoting of experts. Similarly, Protestantism views new ideas that differ from established doctrine as suspect.

What is missing from both the Catholic and the Protestant perspectives is a general Teacher understanding. As God, Theology & Cognitive Modules—combined with this series of essays—shows, it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to explain Christian doctrine from a cognitive perspective. How does one distinguish this from a private interpretation? First, mental symmetry can explain many Christian doctrines that theologians themselves are unable to explain. Second, the theory of mental symmetry is logically coherent and internally consistent. Third, the theory of mental symmetry appears to be consistent with the content of the Bible. Fourth, the theory of mental symmetry appears to be consistent with psychology, neurology, and other fields of research into human personality. As a result, is it possible to place substantial confidence in this theory, and using this theory will lead to the development of a potent Teacher mental network.

Kelly says that the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately a matter of authority. “Ultimately, interpreting the Scriptures comes down to a question of authority. It perhaps is no surprise of the greatest obstacle to Christian unity is also the question of authority. The greatest challenge that faces us, as Christians, in our quest for unity is to free so many from the blind subservience to a book and deliver them to loving obedience to God alive and present in the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church” (p.230).

Authority boils down to mental networks. In simple terms, the most potent mental network will impose its structure upon lesser mental networks. In a soft science, the ultimate authority is a combination of understanding—with its Teacher mental networks, and accepted authorities—with their associated Mercy mental networks. Soft science is divided into different schools of thought, each with its experts and partial theories.

I suggest that both Catholic and Protestant Christianity are at the level of soft science. Both talk about following a universal God and pursuing a path of personal salvation, and both have substantial understanding about God and personal salvation, but both ultimately base their universal understanding upon a finite, limited foundation. Catholicism bases its truth upon submission to the institution of the Catholic Church, whereas Protestant Christianity bases its truth upon blind faith in the book of the Bible.

In a hard science, what holds everything together is the Teacher mental network of a general theory. Institutions still exist, but they are judged by their ability to understand, teach, and apply the general theory. Books are still written, but they are judged by their consistency with the general theory.

As I mentioned earlier in this essay, when one uses the theory of mental symmetry to examine Christian history, then one comes up with a very strange conclusion. The Bible appears to have been written by someone with a deep grasp of cognitive science; it seems to be describing with total accuracy the path of reaching mental wholeness. But its final chapters were written 2000 years before it became possible to fully understand its message. Even stranger, when one uses mental symmetry to examine church history, one discovers that those who were historically closest to the time of the Bible appear to have the most deeply flawed understanding of the content of the Bible. This statement is explored in much greater depth in the (soon to be posted) essay on Orthodox Christianity.

Thus, I suggest that the Catholic Church’s claim to be the source of the Bible cannot be valid. First, how can an institution that focuses upon Server actions and pragmatic thought be the source of a book which can only be understood using abstract thought? Second, how can an institution correctly interpret a book when the most learned men in this institution claim that the fundamental concepts of the book are incomprehensible? Third, as I show in the essay on Orthodox Christianity, how can the early church fathers be the source of the Bible when they had the least understanding about the message of the Bible?

What gives me the authority to make such sweeping statements? Not the personal authority of some Mercy mental network, but rather the abstract authority of a Teacher mental network. Teacher authority is determined by domain. The more a theory can explain, the greater its domain and the stronger its authority. If theory A can explain theory B as well as something that theory B cannot explain, then theory A has more authority than theory B. Not only does mental symmetry appear to be able to explain Christian doctrines which theologians cannot explain, but it can also explain the thinking of theologians and why they have problems explaining Christian doctrines.

I suggest that the Protestant version of sola scriptura is also incomplete. In the same way that education which is based in textbooks can go further than education that is based in apprenticeship, so I suggest that the Protestant faith in the Bible is capable of going further than Catholic imitation of the saints. But blindly believing in a textbook and proclaiming the words of that textbook are not the same as understanding that textbook. In the same way that rote learning should be followed by critical thinking, so Protestant sola scriptura should lead to an understanding of the content of the Bible. To some extent, it does, but Protestant theologians also tend to claim that core Christian doctrines cannot be understood by humans.

In addition, Protestant Christianity tends to forget that Christianity is not merely a matter of Perceiver belief but must also include the development of new personal habits—something which Catholic Christianity does emphasize. Again, I suggest with that we can use the concept of colliding mental networks to understand the cognitive mechanisms. The goal is to use a Teacher mental network of understanding to transform the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. The Christian prayer of salvation together with regular confession to God makes it possible to be honest about personal identity, and this personal honesty makes it possible to let go of rationalization in order to construct a rational understanding that applies to personal identity. But this is only the first half of the battle; this only establishes a beachhead of rational thought. In order to remain rational, one must then develop new habits that are consistent with understanding. The Protestant church preaches the first step but often ignores the second step. The Catholic Church encourages the second step but only partially grasps the first step.

That brings us to a rather important religious question. Is following a universal theory the same as following God? We tend to forget that every attempt to understand or follow God is merely a hypothesis. If we start by assuming that God is a universal being and by recognizing that humans are finite creatures, then I suggest that following a universal theory has the highest probability of being the correct way to follow God. After all, what can a finite human do when faced with overwhelming complexity? He cannot grasp everything, because he is finite. But he can attempt to make sense of the complexity by looking for general principles that summarize the essence of the complexity. In other words, he can try to construct a universal theory. In religious language, this means understanding the essential character attributes of God. If one constructs a universal Teacher theory that applies to personal identity, then the main traits of the Christian God will naturally emerge, providing independent corroboration that one has chosen the right method.

Does this mean that a person has to construct a universal theory of God in order to be a Christian? I suggest that the answer is yes, no, and yes. Informally speaking, whenever a person is attempting to grasp the nature of God, he is looking beyond specifics to universals. He may not be constructing a rigorous universal theory, but he is putting together a general understanding. This explains the first ‘yes’.

However, if Christian doctrine describes universal cognitive mechanisms, then these mechanisms will function whether one understands them or not. Gravity did not start functioning when Isaac Newton came along. It always worked, and Newton was merely the first to describe gravity accurately. Similarly, the mind has always functioned in a certain manner, and following a path that develops the mind will work, whether one understands this path or not. Thus, the Catholic or Protestant Christian may have an inadequate theoretical understanding of universal cognitive mechanisms, but if he honestly pursues the path of mental wholeness, then he will gain a practical knowledge of God and mental wholeness. And this practical wisdom is more valuable than a theoretical understanding of mental symmetry that is not applied personally. That explains the ‘no’.

That brings us to the final ‘yes’. I suggest that one can follow God the most effectively and the most naturally by using Teacher thought to construct a universal theory of the nature of God and then applying this Teacher understanding. This can be illustrated by using the analogy of building a house. The best way to build a house is to start by learning the theory of civil engineering and then construct a building guided by this understanding. However, it is also possible to build a reasonably solid structure guided solely by common sense and practical experience. When building a house, it is better to have a tradesman with common sense than an engineer who lacks practical experience. But an engineer with practical experience is capable of building much bigger and better buildings than a tradesman with common sense. Similarly, I suggest that following a universal theory makes it possible to do a better job of following God, but only if this universal theory is combined with personal experience.


Fasting is the next pillar of Catholicism. Kelly provides a good psychological analysis of fasting. “You are a delicate composition of body and soul. This is the essential makeup of the human person. Your body and soul are carefully linked by your will and intellect. In its present form, your body is temporal. One day it will die, and be buried, and decay. Your soul, however, is eternal. The body and the soul are constantly vying for dominance—so which should steer the ship? Does it make sense for something that is temporal to lead something that is eternal? No. That which is eternal should lead and guide that which is temporal...Whether we are aware of it or not, our body is ordering us around most the day. The body is always crying out, feed me, sleep me, please me, pamper me, nourish me, wash me, relieve me, water me... But where is this voice leading us? In the modern climate, most people’s bodies are winning the battle for dominance between body and soul. In a sense, the body is like money—a great servant, but a horrible master. Fasting is one of the ingenious practices that the Church teaches us to ensure that the body does not become our master” (p.244).

Using the language of mental symmetry, I suggest that we are dealing with our familiar conflict between mental networks. We have already seen that growing up in a physical body leads to the development of childish mental networks. One could compare the relationship between the body and the mind to the construction of a concrete building. Before the concrete can be poured, forms must be constructed out of temporary material. The concrete is then poured into these temporary forms and they give shape to the concrete. When the concrete hardens, then the temporary forms can be removed, and the result is a solid concrete building.

As Kelly points out, the human body is temporary. It will eventually die and decompose. But this temporary body gives shape the mind, because core mental networks acquire their emotional input from the physical body.

Imagine what would happen if only some concrete was poured into the temporary forms. The concrete would provide some stability to the structure but the temporary forms would still be needed to hold everything together. That is the problem with childish identity. It has some mental content but it is still held together by the structure of the physical body. In terms of mental networks, childish personal identity is composed of a collection of fragmented, inconsistent mental networks that are based upon the assumption that the physical body will be present to hold them together. When this is the case, then the body is the master of the soul.

The goal is to construct an integrated mind—a network of mental networks that can hold itself together without requiring a physical body. Fasting is an effective way of testing the strength of an integrated mind. Thus, fasting could be seen as the opposite of getting drunk. When a person gets drunk, then the mind falls apart and the mental fragments are held together by the physical body. When a person fasts, then internal mental networks must give stability to the mental networks that represent the physical body. In terms of the concrete illustration, getting drunk temporarily turns the concrete to a liquid, while fasting temporarily weakens the forms that hold the concrete together.

This comparison is also found in the Bible. “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5). Notice how getting drunk is connected with a lack of understanding, whereas being ‘filled with the spirit’ is related to an understanding of God.

As a result, fasting can help a person to break unwanted habits. As Kelly recounts, “In my own life, I have known the demons of habitual sin. When I first turned to God in my late teen years, I was possessed by such a demon. I tried with all my might to wrestle with it, but nothing worked...Encouraged by the example of a friend, several weeks later I began to fast each Friday, eating only bread and drinking only water. I offered this fasting to God, asking him to liberate me, and it was then that God cast the demon of habitual sin from my life” (p.249).

Kelly suggests that fasting is one of the seven pillars of Catholicism, however I suggest that there several problems with this statement. First, fasting is not unique to Catholicism, but is practiced by many religions. Orthodox Christianity, for instance, places at the least as much emphasis upon fasting as Catholicism. Thus, I suggest that it is more accurate to regard fasting as a universal principle rather than a pillar of Catholicism.

Second, as Kelly points out, the purpose of fasting is to have the mind held together by internal structure rather than external structure. Mental symmetry agrees that this is a good goal. However, if it is a general principle that internal is to be followed rather than external, then one can also conclude that following the invisible Catholic church is better than following the visible Catholic Church. In other words, Kelly’s general conclusion about returning to the visible institution of the Catholic Church is inconsistent with his specific conclusion regarding fasting. Saying this another way, fasting helps a person to follow Platonic forms rather than physical symbols, but the primary error of the Catholic Church is to equate physical symbols with Platonic forms and then focus upon the physical symbols.

This conclusion is backed up by Kelly’s description of how the Catholic Church has historically treated fasting. “In the fourth century, the Church began to regulate the practice of fasting, and since then, the practice has changed considerably at different junctures. In the Middle Ages, distinctions began to emerging regarding the amount and kind of food to be taken on a fasting. It was at this time that it became a rule to abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy products on fast days...All this conspired to make the whole practice of fasting more and more complex. These growing complexities tended to transform the practice into more of a legal matter than the spiritual practice, and move the focus from inner transformation to outward display...In 1966, Pope Paul VI warned of the dangers of a legalistic approach to fasting and offered some new direction for the practice of fasting in the modern era in his Apostolic Constitution on Penance. He reminded Catholics that the outward expression of fasting should always be accompanied by the inner attitude of conversion” (p.250). Notice how Church regulations turned the focus of fasting from internal to external, while the abstract thinking of modern scientific thought encouraged the Church to return the focus of fasting back to the internal.

Similarly, Jesus warns in Matthew 6, “when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” In the language of mental symmetry, fasting will only have a benefit if it is done for internal motives rather than external motives.

There is a third problem with regarding fasting as a pillar of Christianity as Kelly does. Returning to our illustration of building with concrete, what provides the pillars that hold up the structure? The concrete. Fasting is an effective way of strengthening mental concrete but it is not the same as mental concrete. What is mental ‘concrete’? It is an internal integrated structure that holds personal identity together, or in other words, a mental concept of God.

Kelly agrees. “Fasting is a means, but never an and. The purpose of fasting is to assist the soul and turning back to God. The benefits of fasting are innumerable, but all these benefits are secondary to the desire to embrace God more fully in our lives” (p.256).

The concrete of a building acquires its shape from its temporary forms. Similarly, I suggest that the physical body, the Catholic Church, and blind faith in the Bible all act as temporary forms that provide the initial shape for a mental concept of God.

I suggest that each of these three temporary forms has inherent strengths and weaknesses. The physical body is inescapable, therefore living in the physical body will lead to some mental content. But the physical nature of the physical body also ensures that this mental content will be fragmented and inconsistent. In contrast, the content of the Bible appears to be supernaturally consistent. Thus, understanding and applying biblical content will eventually lead to mental wholeness. But in order to adequately understand the content of the Bible, one must learn to navigate the internal realm of the brain, the mind, psychology, and computers. And while the demands of the physical body are very difficult to suppress, the words of a book are very easy to ignore. Finally, the method of blind faith itself will distort the message of the Bible.

The method of the Catholic Church lies somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, a physical institution is more ‘in your face’ and harder to ignore than a book on a shelf. On the other hand, this physical institution has been the custodian of the Christian Bible and is composed of people who have attempted to follow the Christian message. However, the method of equating physical symbols with Platonic forms will introduce substantial errors into the biblical message and will lead to the rise of a parallel system of Platonic forms alongside the original Platonic forms.

Spiritual Reading

The next pillar of Catholic faith is spiritual reading. Kelly devotes the least number of pages to this ‘spiritual pillar’. He says that “spiritual reading is an ancient tradition. It existed in the church long before we had books to read, when every manuscript had to be copied by hand because the printing press had not yet been invented. In those days, this spiritual tradition was mostly confined to the monasteries, where the monks had access to manuscripts of the Scriptures and other great spiritual writings. The goal of spiritual reading is to ignite the soul with a desire to grow in virtue and thus become the-best-version-of-oneself” (p.259).

Kelly adds that “the great masters of spiritual writing are able to set aside issues of the day in their own personal agendas, and place at the center of their writing God’s dream for us to grow each day in virtue and holiness. In their writing, you always hear a call to become a better person” (p.260).

Kelly suggests expanding the domain of spiritual reading. “It is within these bounds that the classical definition of spiritual reading has been confined until now. But for the sake of the modern Catholic who finds him or herself in the midst of the information age, I would like to stretch those boundaries a little, while at the same time keeping our sight firmly fixed on the goal of this ancient practice. I believe there is also place within the context of spiritual reading for us to study certain issues, and that most former Catholics, non-practicing Catholics, and many disengaged Catholics are separated from the church over one issue...With that in mind we have a duty to study and know those issues that we can build the necessary bridges of truth and knowledge that will allow him to return to the fullness of her ancient and beautiful faith” (p.261).

Kelly then turns to the topic of adult education. “One of the challenges that is staring the Church in the face is the great need for adult education. Several generations have now managed to pass through the Catholic educational system with little more than an elementary understanding of Catholicism...We could dream up all types of elaborate adult education programs, but my proposal is that we encourage Catholic adults to read good spiritual books” (p.263).

Based upon these quotes, we can draw the following conclusions. First, spiritual reading goes beyond merely reading the Bible. Second, spiritual books go beyond personal experiences to describing universal principles of personal growth. Third, spiritual reading should be expanded in today’s information age to include the study of theological issues. Fourth, the average religious person today has a very shallow knowledge of Christianity.

Thus, one is dealing today with a blank slate, which can either be viewed as a catastrophe or as an opportunity to set spiritual reading upon a more profitable path. Therefore let us look briefly at the topic of spiritual reading from the viewpoint of mental symmetry.

Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. This means that there are two sides to constructing an adequate concept of God: There is the Teacher side of building a more general theory and there is the Mercy side of applying this understanding more fully to personal identity. For instance, my recent research has been heading primarily in two directions. First, I have extended the theory of mental symmetry to the TESOL realm of linguistics and culture, which has helped to increase the Teacher generality of the theory. Second, I am using mental symmetry to examine Christianity in more detail, which is increasing the Mercy applicability of the theory.

Generalizing, I suggest that spiritual reading could be defined as reading that expands a person’s mental concept of God. What makes reading ‘spiritual’ is three factors. First, spiritual literature combines general Teacher understanding with personal Mercy applicability. Thus, most math and science would not qualify as spiritual literature because it does not apply to personal identity. Second, spiritual literature is held together by Teacher understanding and universal principles and does not try to preserve or protect personal identity. Third, spiritual literature builds upon internal understanding rather than external experiences or external structure.

Not all ‘Christian books’ qualify as spiritual reading. The danger of religious books is to tell personal stories without drawing out universal principles. In addition, the purpose of many religious books is to make personal identity feel better rather than use understanding to transform personal identity; instead of rational thought, there is rationalization. In contrast, I suggest that a significant portion of secular psychological and sociological research does qualify as spiritual literature. However, secular research shares with religious books a tendency to rationalize, excusing aspects of childish identity as lifestyles, cultures, and syndromes. In addition, because science is based in empirical data, secular research often blames mental inadequacies upon physical causes. Thus, I suggest that any explanation which is based upon the theory of evolution does not qualify as spiritual literature, because the theory of evolution is based solely upon the external elements of environmental pressure and genetic mutation.

For example, this article describes attempting to use the theory of evolution to explain monogamy. “Once a monogamous primate father starts to stick around, he has the opportunity to raise the odds that his offspring will survive. He can carry them, groom their fur and protect them from attacks. In our own lineage, however, fathers went further. They had evolved the ability to hunt and scavenge meat, and they were supplying some of that food to their children. ‘They may have gone beyond what is normal for monogamous primates.’” First, I suggest that it is a category mistake to use environmental forces to explain cognitive behavior. Second, the theory of evolution compares human behavior with the lower norm of animal behavior rather than the higher norm of a Platonic form. Monogamy is simple to explain using mental symmetry. The emotional experiences of sex create potent mental networks. Sex with multiple partners fragments the mind. When a person is having sex with the current partner, memories of ex-partners will be triggered but not satisfied. Monogamous sex, in contrast, uses emotional experiences from the physical body to help integrate the mind.

Summarizing, even if the Bible is the very word of God, reading only the Bible is insufficient to construct an adequate mental concept of God. Spiritual reading either adds to Teacher understanding or applies understanding more fully to personal identity. Spiritual literature meets three qualifications. First, it combines understanding with personal identity. Second, it uses understanding to accurately describe—and even better, transform—personal identity. Third, it emphasizes internal structure and personal choices rather than external structure and environmental pressure.

The Rosary

Kelly’s final pillar of Catholicism is the rosary. According to tradition, the rosary was given to St. Dominic in 1214 in a vision of the Virgin Mary. A papal bull in 1569 officially established Catholic devotion to the rosary. In 2002, Pope John Paul II added five ‘luminous mysteries’ to the rosary and declared the following year to be the Year of the Rosary.

The rosary is a string of prayer beads. One uses the rosary by going through the string of beads in sequence praying the prayer associated with each bead. In the words of this beginner’s guide, “The rosary begins with the Apostles Creed, followed by one Our Father, three Hail Marys (traditionally offered for an increase in faith, hope, and charity for those praying the rosary), a Glory Be, and, if desired, the Fatima Prayers. Next come five mysteries, each consisting of one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, a Glory Be, and, if desired, the Fatima Prayers. Conclude with the Hail Holy Queen. Please say a few extra prayers after the Hail Holy Queen for the Pope.”

Pope John Paul II called the rosary a compendium of the gospel. “The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.”

In a similar vein, Kelly says, “I began praying the rosary because it is a form of prayer that I find very soothing, both mentally and spiritually. Today, I pray the rosary because I believe it is the simplest way to reflect upon the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. To place this in the context of our spiritual journey, I believe that as Christians we are called to imitate Jesus. It is impossible to imitate someone you do not know. We come to know him in the Scriptures, in the sacraments, and through so many different people and places. The rosary is one other way. By praying the rosary, we can ponder many aspects of Jesus and his life in a relatively brief period of time. And, as we discussed earlier, the actions of our lives are determined by our most dominant thoughts. If our actions are to be like those of Christ then it helps to ponder his life and teachings regularly” (p.269).

Thus, we see that, cognitively speaking, the rosary takes the place of a general Teacher theory by bringing order to the complexity of the story of Jesus.

Kelly expands upon the relationship between order and complexity. “Catholics have abandoned the rosary today because we have been seduced by complexity. We give our allegiance and respect to complexity, but simplicity is the key to perfection. Peace in our hearts is born from simplicity in our lives... Our lives are suffering under the intolerable weight of ever-increasing complexities. We complicate everything. And as this diseased fascination with complexity is swept across modern culture, it has also affected the way we approach prayer. Subsequently, as modern Catholics, we have deemed the rosary worthless. Do not despise simplicity. There is real power in it” (p.268).

We looked previously at the difference between human righteousness and divine righteousness. Human righteousness is based upon the human repetition of some Server sequence. Teacher thought observes this repetition and represents it with a general theory. Divine righteousness observes sequences that are inherent in the world and the mind and then discovers the Teacher order that lies behind these natural sequences.

Divine righteousness is seen in the relationship between math and physics. Physics observes Server sequences that occur in the external world, and then math discovers that these repeated sequences can be described using simple mathematical equations. In the words of Paul Dirac, “The physicist, in his study of natural phenomena, has two methods of making progress: (1) the method of experiment and observation, and (2) the method of mathematical reasoning. The former is just the collection of selected data; the latter enables one to infer results about experiments that have not been performed. There is no logical reason why the second method should be possible at all, but one has found in practice that it does work and meets with reasonable success. This must be ascribed to some mathematical quality in Nature, a quality which the casual observer of Nature would not suspect, but which nevertheless plays an important role in Nature’s scheme.”

A similar relationship exists in the theory of mental symmetry. If one observes human behavior one notices similar patterns and sequences, sequences that are based in the structure of the mind and are not merely expressions of some culture. These repeated sequences can be described using a simple symbolic diagram—the diagram of mental symmetry. A single diagram may not be as intricate as a system of mathematics, but we still have the essential elements of divine righteousness: observed repeated sequences that can be described in simple symbolic form.

In contrast, the rosary is an example of human righteousness. A person performs the Server sequence of praying the rosary, and the Teacher order comes from repeatedly performing this Server sequence. What resides within Teacher thought is a collection of prayers that are thematically related. There is no simple Teacher theory or simple set of mathematical equations. Instead, what brings order to the complexity is a physical string of beads and the human sequence of praying through these beads.

Kelly says that he finds it soothing to pray the rosary. I suggest that he is experiencing the Teacher emotion that results from Server repetition. When the Christian message is packaged in the form of a general Teacher theory, then this positive Teacher emotion makes it possible to reassemble the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. Kelly describes this process. “One of the practical spiritual benefits of the rosary is its ability to help us grow in virtue. As we begin to practice a virtue intentionally, it develops into a habitual virtue. But I have also learned that when you intentionally focus your energies toward growing in a particular virtue, you automatically grow in every other virtue. Virtue begets virtue. Eventually, the habitual effort to practice a virtue blossoms into spontaneous right action. I found the rosary particularly helpful in my attempts to increase the practice of various virtues in my life” (p.270).

Kelly is describing a valid cognitive effect. The repeated Server action of praying the rosary packages the Christian message into the form of a general Teacher theory, and the resulting Teacher emotion helps to guide other Server actions. However, this is a form of human righteousness because it begins with a habitual Server action rather than a general Teacher understanding.

This relationship between human and divine can also be seen in the specific prayers of the rosary. The rosary contains several prayers that summarize the Christian message: the Lord’s prayer, the Apostle’s Creed (which summarizes Christian doctrine), the Glory Be (which describes the Trinity). In addition, the prayer focuses upon aspects of the life of Jesus at specific points in the rosary. However, what ties everything together is the ‘glue prayer’ of the Hail Mary.

Let us look briefly at the Hail Mary. “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

Christian doctrine says that Jesus had a human mother and a divine father. This doctrine of the virgin birth and his relationship to the Virgin Mary is discussed elsewhere. What concerns us here is the balance between human and divine. Notice that the human aspect of Jesus’ birth is being emphasized in the Hail Mary: ‘blessed is the fruit of thy womb’. It is interesting to note that Jesus specifically addresses this phrase in the Gospels. “While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.’ But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” (Luke 11) When a person in the crowd emphasized the human aspect of Jesus’ birth, he responded by focusing upon divine righteousness, which starts with Teacher understanding and then adds Server actions.

Similarly, the Hail Mary describes Mary as ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God’, again focusing upon the human mother of Jesus. The term ‘Mother of God’ or Theotokos has played a significant role in historical Christianity. It is interesting to note that Jesus specifically addresses this concept as well, again in response to the words of someone in the crowd. “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12) Thus, instead of elevating his human mother to the status of Theotokos, Jesus redefines his family—including his mother, the ‘Blessed Virgin Mary’—to be those who do Server actions that are guided by general Teacher understanding.

Kelly says that “A mother has a unique perspective. Nobody sees the life of the child the way the child’s mother does—not even the father. This is Mary’s perspective of Jesus life. It seems to me that every genuine Christian, not just Catholics, should be interested in that perspective—and not just interested, but fascinated. In the rosary we ponder the life of Jesus through the eyes of his mother. This is an incredibly powerful experience if we enter into it fully” (p.278).

What Kelly is saying is true. But do we want to view Jesus from the human perspective of his mother? Paul addresses this question in a passage that compares the temporary physical body with a more lasting personal existence—the comparison that Kelly used when discussing fasting. The passage begins “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” Notice that Paul refers metaphorically to two kinds of human bodies, a temporary physical body and a lasting body that comes from God.

Paul then applies this contrast to his view of Jesus. As was quoted earlier in this essay, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5). Paul is saying here that he used to regard Jesus from the human perspective of temporary ‘flesh’, but he now views Jesus from the divine perspective of bringing order to complexity—in religious language, reconciling the world to God.

I suggest that we are dealing again with a relationship between physical symbol and Platonic form. As an incarnation, Jesus is a combination of practical Contributor thought, which lives within the world of physical objects, and intellectual Contributor thought, which deals with Platonic forms. Both the rosary and the Hail Mary focus upon the physical symbol, whereas Jesus and Paul say that we should focus upon the Platonic form instead.

This does not mean that Catholicism ignores Platonic forms. Rather, as I have mentioned, the Catholic attitude towards Platonic forms has gone through several historical stages. This is illustrated by the rosary. Initially, the words and life of Jesus were meant to be understood as a Platonic form. This Platonic form was then represented by the physical symbol of the rosary, and the focus turned to the physical action of praying the rosary. Modern Catholicism is now focusing upon the Platonic form that lies behind the action of praying the rosary. But this is an indirect Platonic form which now exists alongside understanding the words and life of Jesus.

If one wishes to package the life and ministry of Jesus into a neat Teacher package, then I suggest that the theory of mental symmetry does a better job than the rosary. Kelly says, “I suspect one of the reasons the rosary has become so unpopular during this modern era is because it is stereotypically considered the prayer of an overly pious old woman with little education and too much time on her hands. In a world where we bow to knowledge and academic degrees, piety is considered to border on superstition” (p.276). Exactly. So why not solve this problem by replacing the rosary with a general Teacher theory that is compatible with knowledge and academic degrees?

That leads one to pose the following question? One can see that there is a relationship between the rosary and prayer, but what does a diagram of mental symmetry have to do with ‘talking to God’? I suggest that this relates to question that we posed earlier regarding the relationship between following God and following a universal theory. Whenever I am interacting with another person, then most of this interaction is actually occurring within my own mind with the mental network that represents that person. In other words, what adds emotional richness to any personal interaction is the emotional memories that are being triggered by that interaction. For instance, this explains why people often treat their pets as humans. Animals are not human. Instead, interaction with the pet is triggering mental networks within the mind of the owner, and these mental networks are acting in a human-like manner. Thus, it is the mind of the owner that is adding the human dimension and not the mind of the pet.

Applying this to prayer, I suggest that it is a person’s mental concept of God that adds the personal dimension to prayer. How does one construct the mental concept of a relationship with a universal being? By building a universal theory that applies to personal identity. Notice that I am not suggesting that the real God is impersonal and that the human mind is adding the personal dimension. It is true that the mind is capable of ascribing a personal dimension to a relationship when it is not warranted. That is known in the cognitive science of religion as the Agency Detector. Instead, I am suggesting that all interpersonal relationships, human or divine, acquire their personal richness by triggering existing mental networks that have been constructed over time.

My personal experience is consistent with this theoretical conclusion. As I continue to study the various aspects of the theory of mental symmetry guided by the diagram of mental symmetry, I find increasingly that when I read the Bible, it seems to be talking about a person that I recognize. From a theoretical perspective, Biblical descriptions about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit make increasing obvious sense. But there is also a personal dimension. As I read the Bible, I find myself empathizing with God, as my mental concept of God resonates with the biblical description of God interacting with humanity. Does this mean that I am God? Of course not. Rather, it suggests that my mental concept of God corresponds with someone who is really ‘out there’ who is being described in the Bible. I suggest that this type of interaction with God is far more meaningful than anything that can be generated by praying the rosary.


We have seen four different versions of Christianity in this essay: Catholic Christianity, Kelly’s Christianity, biblical Christianity, and mental symmetry-based Christianity. As far as I can tell, mental symmetry is consistent with biblical Christianity. However, there are significant differences between Kelly’s Christianity and traditional Catholic Christianity. Traditional Catholic Christianity emphasizes religious self-denial and focuses upon the physical symbols that represent Christian belief, and many of the beliefs of traditional Catholic Christianity are inconsistent with biblical Christianity. Kelly, in contrast, emphasizes becoming the-best-version-of-yourself, which is quite different than practicing religious self-denial, and Kelly bases much of his doctrine upon psychological principles rather than focusing upon physical symbols. However, Kelly still holds on to core Catholic practices and he uses psychological concepts to encourage a return to Catholicism.

Thus, Kelly could be viewed as the Catholic version of Christian apologetics. Protestant apologetics uses logic to analyze many Christian doctrines but then uses this logic to lead the reader back to blind faith in the Bible. Similarly, Kelly’s Christianity could also be viewed as a hybrid. Kelly’s content is significantly more consistent with biblical content than traditional Catholic Christianity, and Kelly’s approach is quite similar to the approach taken by mental symmetry.

It appears that Catholicism has played a mixed role in Kelly’s personal development. One can see that the institutional form of Catholicism has encouraged Kelly to view Christianity as an integrated system. However, Kelly’s psychological approach appears to be more a result of the existential crisis Catholicism is currently experiencing combined with the development of secular knowledge. Similarly, Kelly’s move toward biblical consistency and away from Catholic tradition seems to be at least partially a result of interaction with Protestant Christianity. This must be the case, because Kelly’s strongest words occur in his discussion of Protestant Christianity and sola scriptura. Therefore, it appears that Kelly is being driven by forces outside of Catholicism to renew Catholicism.

I suggest that Kelly’s Christianity is missing two significant elements. First, what is lacking is a solid concept of personal transformation. Kelly talks about forming new habits, but it appears that these new habits co-exist alongside old habits. Kelly recognizes that childish identity is flawed, but he does not seem to be convinced that it needs to be torn apart and reassembled. He preaches self-improvement but not necessarily personal transformation. What seems to be preventing Kelly from endorsing personal transformation is the Catholic emphasis upon Server actions as well as the Catholic focus upon physical continuity.

Second, Kelly lacks an integrated Teacher theory that can tie everything together. On the intellectual side, what holds everything together in his mind is the institution of the Catholic Church rather than an integrated theory. On the practical side, the Catholic practice of becoming a baptized member of the church and confessing to a priest makes it difficult to construct a mental concept of God that does not depend upon the institution of the Catholic Church. In the language of mental symmetry, the core mental network that holds everything together is not the Teacher mental network of a concept of God that is based in universal understanding, but rather a hybrid Teacher/Mercy mental network representing the Catholic Church. Examining Kelly’s arguments from an outside perspective, his psychological reasoning provides a good case for regarding Christian belief as universally valid, but it does not provide compelling reasons to return to the Catholic Church.

I suggest that the primary error of the Catholic Church is equating physical symbols with Platonic forms, and it appears that all of the major discrepancies between Catholic Christianity and biblical Christianity can be traced back to this single error. Kelly is attempting to recover from this cognitive error by looking for the Platonic forms behind the physical symbols of the Catholic Church. In addition, Kelly clearly states that one can be a Christian without belonging to the Catholic Church, which means that he views the Catholic Church as an aspect of a larger invisible church. Finally, Kelly’s psychological analysis is uncovering some of the original Platonic forms of Christian salvation that have become obscured over the centuries by the physical symbols that were used to represent these Platonic forms.

What remains is a fundamental Catholic contradiction that must be resolved to make further progress. Is the physical symbol the same as a Platonic form or is it not? Modern Catholicism has taken a schizophrenic approach to this question. On the one hand, there is now a strong Catholic emphasis upon looking for the Platonic forms that lie behind physical symbols. On the other hand, Catholicism still clings to its traditional view of equating physical symbol with Platonic form. One of these viewpoints will eventually have to replace the other.

[1] How can one be friends with a dead person? The ‘social’ interaction is actually occurring internally with the mental network that represents this person. Similarly, when a spouse dies then the mental network that represents that person continues to exist.

[2] Paul’s attitude to other humans changes as well, because he regards them as ‘new creatures’ who have been given a ‘word of reconciliation’. In other words, they use general understanding in Teacher thought and have a transformed—but still finite—identity in Mercy thought.

[3] I Corinthians 11 is also used to support transubstantiation. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Notice that the purpose of Eucharist is to remember the death of Jesus, which means that we are talking about a symbol. Notice also that it talks—three times—about ‘eating bread’ and ‘drinking cup’. If one eats bread and drinks cup with the wrong attitude, then one is ‘guilty of the body and blood’. In other words, mistreating the physical symbol will damage the concept of the Platonic form. However, nowhere in this passage does it talk about ‘eating the body’ or ‘drinking the blood’.

[4] We have mentioned a cognitive reason for a belief in saints. There is also a historical reason. In Roman times, each occupation and condition had its own god. Similarly, in traditional Catholic thought each occupation and condition has its own patron saint. A connection has been postulated between some Roman gods and Catholic saints.

[5] Thus, I suggest that sin can be defined in terms of Kant’s categorical imperative.

[6] This same verb tense shows up in Matthew 16, which is analyzed here.

[7] As I mentioned earlier, it is possible to analyze the fundamental traits of God in terms of Teacher thought.