Works of the Flesh Versus Works of the Spirit
Let me start by stating categorically that no spiritual discipline that relies solely on the work of the believer is inherently of spiritual benefit.
Just as works of the law do not cause Justification (making man legally right before God), spiritual disciplines do not cause Sanctification (making man behave right before God). To use an analogy, Justification is a "structure" that God built by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, but which benefits man only when the latter agrees with God and figuratively "enters" that "structure" by belief in Jesus Christ. In a similar way, Sanctification is a "structure" that God builds by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but which benefits man only when the latter agrees with God and figuratively "enters" that "structure" by belief in, and cooperation with, the indwelling Holy Spirit. Justification is that aspect of Salvation where man is saved from the consequences of sin with regard to God's justice to live eternally in the world to come. Sanctification is that aspect of Salvation where man is saved from the consequences of sin with regard to the natural order of things to live rightly in this present world. Symbiosis as a doctrine does not Sanctify or causes Sanctification: it merely helps a person understand the fact of the existence of the Holy Spirit within them and explicitly addresses the process of cooperation. (The best analogy is a man shattering a glass using a rifle. The actual shattering was done by the bullet striking the glass, but the bullet cannot strike the glass without being fired, and it could not be fired until the man pulled the trigger. Pulling the trigger was a necessary precondition to eventually breaking the glass, but not sufficient if the gun was not loaded. Cooperation pulls the trigger, but the actual shattering of sin and its effects by the transformation of the life is effected by the Holy Spirit.)
Thus, the core concepts behind the idea of Symbiosis immediately lead us to the realization that the spiritual disciplines work only because they, to some degree and in some way, are a form of cooperation with the Holy Spirit within the believer. This explains why the spiritual disciplines do not work on non-believers, since they do not have the Holy Spirit within them.
This result has two consequences with regard to the present effort represented by this website. The first consequence is that the conscious knowledge of effective cooperation with the Holy Spirit that Symbiosis represents can be used to improve the effectiveness of the spiritual disciplines. For instance, the discipline of prayer is probably as encrusted with as much placebo "mumbo jumbo" as the medicine man's administration of impure quinine to the one suffering malaria. With the help and insight of Symbiosis, prayer could become a process as effective as the modern-day application of quinine in a purified pill form, with the advantage of the sufferer getting better results with a lot less bother.
The second consequence is the potential for discovering enhancements within the existing spiritual disciplines that would improve their effectiveness for the believer: the discovery of quinine immediately led to the search for the mechanism by which it it worked to alleviate malaria, leading to the development of a vaccine against it, as well as suggesting a control mechanism that would guide the search for effective medicines for other diseases. Similarly, because Symbiosis states that the success of a spiritual discipline in one area is necessarily the result of a specific method of cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we are led to search out and elucidate the method with the hope that it might prove effective in combatting other forms of our spiritual "disease".
The above two consequences impact the research aspects of Symbiosis, but I offer them to encourage you to start, or continue, the practice of the spiritual disciplines, with the obvious suggestion that they be done symbiotically when it comes to choosing which ones to do, when to do them, and how to do them. One benefit we will discuss in this essay is that some of the disciplines can be used as a "manual override" to a cyclic thought process that is out of control. When the Inner Man starts selecting the wrong thoughts, the consequent thoughts generated by the human heart in response will tend to confirm and reenforce the injudicious selection, creating a "vicious cycle". Certain of the spiritual disciplines will help break the "vicious cycle" and establish a "virtuous cycle". Their ability to do so may seem weak right now, but will strengthen when exercised consciously within the symbiotic framework.
Some of the spiritual disciplines are New Covenant requirements imposed by scripture whose performance will be enhanced if approached symbiotically. And there are some spiritual disciplines whose practice in one's life can be characterized as being "less than enthusiastically pursued", but which can be less onerously performed if done symbiotically. I will point these out and give a brief outline of the suggested approaches, with the understanding that a fuller exposition and discourse on the methods will be given in a later essay written within the context of the stage best suited for learning and applying them.
Before we start, I want to express my personal doubt that Symbiosis would be of use in discovering any truly "new" ones. I think the "spiritual discipline tree" is barren after almost 1800 years of picking over the branches. While I will be delighted if some independent researcher performing follow-on work in this field proves me wrong, I believe we will not find "new" spiritual disciplines as much as rediscover "old" ones that proved effective in the past but which either fell out of "fashion", were deemed not as efficient as the others that were retained, or were abandoned for one trivial reason or another. Just as new mining equipment can enable abandoned gold mines to be productive again, so Symbiosis may help us to be productive using variants of those abandoned spiritual disciplines. Who knows what lost treasures are now accessible in the works of the Scholastics, the Ascetics, the Monastics, just to name a few? An exercise, as the textbooks say, that is left to the reader or prospective researcher.
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