Conversion is a transformation of images deep within one’s psyche and one’s images of God

6 min readJan 15


A. Soosairaj S.J.

The true spiritual awakening — conversion of heart — happens only when a real transformation takes place at the affective level (psyche), caused by our own personal life experiences, regarding the distorted images of God effecting series of positive, deep-seated changes in the images of oneself, of others and of the universe that are stored in our subconscious mind.

We become what we contemplate!

What is an image of God? It is an unreflected spontaneous attitude that influences our responses to God, ourselves and others. Because the images of God that we all have is the eye through which we all continue to experience ourselves, others, universe and of God. The images of God that we keep nourishing keeps creating us or destroying us. Either of the ways the images of God affect us in our growth.

We are organically interconnected and interdependent.

We the human beings are created not merely as individuals but as a community, as a family. By the very fact that we are created as a community we are not only rational human beings as sociologists may define, but basically we are relational-rational beings. As relational–rational being we are always in a (circle of) triangular relationship, namely as a creation our relationship with our Creator — God (our spirituality); as an individual our relationship with ourselves (intrapersonal) and as one among the creation our relationship with the rest of the creation (interpersonal).

In this ongoing cycle of relationships our spirituality affects and in turn gets affected by our intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships and likewise our intrapersonal relationship by our spirituality and interpersonal relationship and our interpersonal relationship by our spirituality and intrapersonal relationship. Hence we grow up in our lives not merely as independent individuals but as unique individuals organically interconnected and interdependent with the rest of the creation.

Three images of us in each of us.

That is why it is said that there are three persons or images in each of us about ourselves. Namely the image that the others have of myself, the images that I have of myself (which in fact frequently shaped by the image that others have of me) and finally the image that God, my Creator has of me. Since the others and myself are limited as human beings, the image that I have of myself or what the others have of me most often is limited and not fully authentic as what God created of me — in his own image and likeness of him. As we already saw the image that I have myself has an overarching impact on my well-being and the way I relate with others and with my God.

As the image de-facto the Well-being.

Healthier the image that I have of myself, stronger is my physical, psychological and spiritual well-being and vice a versa. That is why we see people whose internal well-being is healthier they just start loving and caring for the others irrespective of the response of the receiver. But in the case of people whose internal well-being is not healthier even though they may be economically well off and in high positions in the status-ladder of the society keep searching and begging the others to love and to care for them. These people when they don’t get what they grave for internally they even forcefully or stealthily use their wealth, power and authority to get the same. If they fail even in all these ways to satisfy their inner hunger, driven by strong depression they commit suicide or at times they even go to the extent of murdering the persons concerned.

What is more alarming in today’s world is that the rising religious and political fundamentalist groups and other anti-humanistic groups target these people who are very vulnerable to be manipulated because of their weaker well-being to achieve their ulterior motives and goals. Therefore, to realize and to reclaim our true and original image becomes an urgent need of the hour, which all religious leaders and we the faithful should attend to immediately with the utmost importance.

An enormous spiritual task!

Why realizing and reclaiming our authentic image becomes an enormous spiritual task? From the moment we are conceived in the womb of our mothers we are almost like a tape recorder we keep regarding on our blank subconscious mind all that what we feel, hear and see as truth. Being born in this cycle of relationships, our faith formation — the images of God, of ourselves, others and of the universe — is done very much by others — very specifically the parents, elders and the established just / unjust socio-economic-religious-cultural systems and structures of the society.

As we grow up even before our analytical / the cognitive part of our mind is developed to scrutinize whether it is healthier or distorted images, unknowingly we keep recording different distorted and unhealthier images of God, of ourselves and of others, by the way the power was exercised over us by the influential adults during our formative years and from our own life experiences of what we heard and saw, the reward and punishment we received from our elders and of joys and sufferings that we went through.

The God-images and the God-concepts that are stored up in our subconscious mind at our young age play a significant role in forming our belief system. It is this belief system of ours, without even we being aware of them, have more power to move the heart and bring about a real positive or negative outlook of oneself, others and of God. Hence it is our belief system that ultimately determines the course of our life — who we are and what we become, physically, psychologically and spiritually and how we relate with the rest of the creation.

Spiritual masters claim that the images of God (the experiential aspect of God) more than that of God-concept (cognitive understanding of God — the ideas of God) that we keep contemplating make us what we finally become. Hence the transformation from the stored up distorted images of God into the more authentic images of God is a necessity for any genuine spiritual growth — for we are made in the image and likeness of the God.

The need of the these emotionally felt god-images like music seep into the deepest part of our being and change us, giving us insight and releasing energy. They influence much our way of thinking, feeling, our emotions, our attitudes towards and our relationships with ourselves, others and of God in our cycle of relationships.

Disposing of the distorted and toxic images of God!

The first lesson that all those interested in spiritual awakening should realize, is that we as human beings cannot exactly claim any image as the authentic image or the correct understanding of God. We should be aware of the theory of the vantage point of view which says that the reality out there is experienced or understood from the angle that I am able to look at it. In fact the images or the understanding we claim of God do not reveal much of God but it reveals about us.

In any human-divine encounter both these aspects are present: the revelation of the Divine and the revelation of the human person. In any spiritual experience the Divine is revealed to the human person in a much deeper sense than what the person had experienced or understood before. At the same time this experience of the Divine at a newer depth leads the human person to a deeper experience of what he or she could become. Divine experience is very spiral and dialectical in nature, the more you go deeper, the deeper the experience that we go through of us and of the Divine.

(Fr. A. Soosairaj, a Jesuit priest of Chennai Province. Presently the Director st. Joseph’s Retreat Centre Kallar Mettupalayam. He has the experience of accompanying 27 batches of religious men and women in a month long Ignatian Sp. Excercises and many 8 days retreats along with the experience of being the Director of technical school and as the manager of coffee estates.)




Bulletin of the Chennai Jesuit Province