Contemplation and Inner Experience

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.



AI Suggested Keywords:


Class on contemplative prayer using Thomas Merton's The Inner Experience.

Class II

Contemplative Prayer Set 1 of 2

AI Summary: 




#class-series; #monastic-class-series


First class, last time. We spent most of our time in more or less in contact with section one of Merton's interior experience. I'll get into these new handouts in a minute, explain at least a couple of them. The first section there, which is, we could more or less entitle it, What is Contemplation? Oh, his title is Notes on Contemplation, something like that. And so first it's a question of giving a sense of the contemplative experience, of what he means by it, and then putting it into a context. And it's very important to realize rather reflexively what context he puts it in, that connection with the inner self, because you don't find that in most of the Christian writings about contemplation. That's something that Merton has more or less, should we say, rediscovered. Even the word self, or whatever you want to


use as equivalent for it, is not something that you find a lot of before Merton's time in the West, that is in our modern period. What you do find is a lot of talk about the soul, not much about the psyche either, but about the soul and the spirit. And often very analytical looks at the human person in a scholastic or post-scholastic way, which attempt to break down the person into the faculties. But what's lost is the sense of the unity of the person. See, that's something that returns in our time, in the time of Vatican too. And Merton is a prophet of that along the line of spirituality. He may make dichotomies, but he's good along the line of anthropology and spirituality, about re-grasping the unity of the human person. And the contemplation is not one of your faculties in contact with God. And it's not basically a dualistic relationship between you and God. It's a unitive experience


in which all of these dimensions of unity or non-dualism come together. It's very important. And the fact that contemplation is not something you do, but in a sense it's the activation, the realization, the actualization of the core of your being, and the whole of your being. Now, that puts the whole thing of contemplation in a completely different light. It relates it to the center, and then it relates it to everything. So it's not this or that, it's everything in some sense. That can be overdone too, as we'll see. However, it's very valuable for finding our way around in the monastic life. Remember Panakar's notion of the center with which he defines the monastic life and the monk. I've brought that up a hundred times. But that was a very precious thing for me. The equivalent I remember in my reading was when I read a series of articles on purity of heart, and could locate the heart as the core of a monastic theology or a monastic spirituality in the biblical tradition. And Panakar writes about the center and generalizes it. Now you bring those two together and you've


got an excellent framework or axis for understanding monasticism, I believe, monastic spirituality, in an interior way. And monasticism as the interior, as it were, dimension or interior level, ideally speaking, of the life of the church and of human life. And in a sense of the cosmos. As Merton brings out when he talks about the contemplative as Adam, Adam in the garden, in the place of unity prior to all the dichotomies, in the place of the integrity, the wholeness, the resonance, when human nature rang as a bell before the splits and the alienation, the fragmentation, the expulsion from the garden, and all of our hemorrhoids and other problems. So contemplation for him is an awakening of the inner self. And most of the rest of that first section is involved with giving you experiential witnesses to that awakening from


various angles. The first angle is that of a Zen contemplative, remember? Chopin, was that his name? The only old man sitting in his office when his fountain mind was placid and clear, and then the doors of the mind, a thunderclap. He heard a thunderclap and the doors of the mind burst open. And suddenly, nothing happened and everything happened. And he was the same old guy, and all of a sudden everything is filled with light, everything is somehow made new, and yet just as it was. The indescribable unit of experience. And then he quotes several Christian texts, remember? It was St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and John of the Cross. And without getting very analytical about it, he's sort of just sketching out the area, just sort of driving posts in the ground. And then he's going to move around in that area afterwards with a more, what would you call it, a more rigorous approach. He was just staking out the territory in that first section. Notice a kind of parallel, and it's very important to realize what Martin is putting in there.


In other words, when you read Martin writing about contemplation, writing about these things, he's not simply giving you the tradition of the church. He's not giving you a kind of orthodox version, a standard version. It's got a spin on it, a twist on it. It's got a special framework which he has very painstakingly worked out in the course of his own life. And he's trying to write about experience and not just theory. And it's important to realize that, both because a lot of the value of what he gives you is in that particular point of view, and also because it's a personal point of view, it's not infallible. So it has to be evaluated. You have a right to check it out with your own experience and to check it out with other things that you read and hear. It's not an absolute. Note a kind of parallel here. Remember that axis of the movement from the false self to the true self in Martin. We looked at that positively and then criticized it a bit. But notice a parallel in that movement from the false self to the true self in Martin, and


to a true contact with reality. That's a movement from an exterior self which is determined by, remember where Eliot says somewhere, a face to meet the faces that we meet. Like we make a face, you know, we put on a face to meet the faces that we meet. That kind of thing. That's a persona. The kind of personality, the kind of self-image that is created to get along in the world. And we have to have one in some sense, but when we believe in that, then we're in trouble. And the false self is a self which believes in that persona. It believes in its batting average. It believes in its fan mail. It believes in the percentage that it gets, the kind of feedback that it gets. And it is built upon that. It doesn't have anything inside to rest upon. The true self is the self which somehow is springing up from inside and doesn't need that. It may receive it, you know, but it doesn't dwell on it. It doesn't live on it. It's not based on that feedback, based on that mirroring


from outside itself. But somehow its identity is falling mysteriously from within, from the invisible, from the Father, as we say in Christianity. Now notice a kind of parallel to what's happening in the Church at that time. This is the time of Vatican II. Martin died in 1968. This inner experience was written, what, in 1959? Okay, so it's right in that time. But the Church is undergoing a similar journey during that time. Now, I don't want to make this too sharp, but the Church is sort of waking up from its counter-reformation false self, in a certain way. I don't want to exaggerate this. But when the Church gets into a battle, and it got into a life and death struggle, I'm talking about the Catholic Church in particular, at the time of the Protestant Reformation, it tends to have to create a self which is not quite itself. When it's embattled, it tends to get rigid. It tends to tighten up, and to begin to assume an exterior identity which


is not quite the same, not quite coherent with its genuine, interior, mysterious identity. See, it doesn't have the patience for mystery at that point. It has to have answers. And so it comes out with answers, and it builds a structure of answers, a Church of answers, which almost suppresses the question. Almost suppresses the question. Because if you ask the question, you're afraid that the other guy's answer may prevail, so you've got to get your answer in there before the other fellow does. That sort of thing happens. So what the Church does is construct a kind of exterior self, a kind of false self. Vatican II is a waking up from that particular problem, which is four or five hundred years old, stems at least from the time of the Counter-Reformation, to the interior identity of the Church. You find this, for example, in the images of the Church, the models of the Church. Remember when Avery Dulles writes his book, Models of the Church, and he says, well, we've been


living on one image, which is the institutional image. Now that's what you would call the battle gear of the Church. The institutional image is like the mobilized Church, Church militant, Church in a fight, and therefore having to have a hard, clearly defined, impregnable image of itself, like going out in armor to confront the foe. But is that the true self of the Church? Maybe it's a self of the Church, but as Dulles points out, we're able to think up five or six other images, which go much deeper into the true reality of the Church. So instead of being fixed on one self-image, the Church moves into a plurality of images, and beyond and within the plurality of the images, the mystery of its own identity which dwells within that. Do you see the parallel with what Merton is doing, in talking about our movement from the false self to the true self? So no doubt he's being moved also by the zeitgeist at that time, by the Spirit, which is moving the Church interiorly, and


towards the interior, and towards a deeper discovery of its own identity at the time of Vatican II. I don't want to push the parallel too far, but I think it's true. Also, something about the masculine-feminine spectrum is involved here, in this movement from the more exterior identity to the interior identity, and from a more, would you say, circumscribed and hard objective view, to an acceptance of mystery, and an understanding of self and everything else somehow in a participative way, and in a holistic way, rather than simply objective and dualized. We'll talk more about that later. Okay, in those handouts you have, one of them, handout number two, it's H2 there, is called Theses about Contemplation. Now, this is something that I've started here and would like to continue, and these are more or less, what would you call it, experimental, or improvisory, just


to put down some fundamental principles about the view that we're taking of contemplation and contemplative experience. And the first one is that it's a unitive, a non-dual knowledge, okay? I'm almost equating the word contemplation with that expression. The non-dual expression has a lot more affinity, of course, to Eastern traditions, to the Asian spiritual traditions, than it does to ours. And when I say that, we have a tendency to want to define that. The only trouble is it doesn't define very well, because when we say unitive, we mean non-dual in several different directions. There's this book, Non-Duality, by David Lloyd, that I'll refer to from time to time. He starts out, he's trying to find a common denominator between the Asian traditions,


between Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism, and he finds it in the experience of the reality of non-duality. But then he sets out in his first chapter to try to say what he means by non-duality, and comes up with five different kinds, which are as follows. First, the negation of dualistic thinking, that is, thinking which differentiates into two or both categories, like good and bad, or mine and yours, or being and non-being, success and failure, things like that. Secondly, the non-plurality of the world, that is, that somehow the world is one, is one thing. This is not in your notes. This is all with reference to that first thesis about contemplation, that contemplation is unitive or non-dual knowledge. Just kind of a note to that. If you're interested in this, I can give you a copy of this too. Thirdly, the non-difference of subject and object, and that's the chief way in which Lloyd talks about non-duality, or unitive experience. That is, when you perceive something,


when you know something, you know it through your unity with it. You don't know it objectively, that is, as an object opposed to yourself that you see clearly at a distance, as it were, and clearly from an exterior front, as it were, from a facade, as we see one another's faces. Our relationships are very complex and curious, because we see a face, and that's an objective knowledge, isn't it? That's purely subject-object, and yet at the same time we know that very face in a participative way, because we're made of the same stuff, and so on. You can't know a human person in a totally non-participative way. We try to, by creating enemies and so on, but it's very hard to do. And then, two more. The identity of phenomena and the absolute. That's kind of a mysterious one, but it comes up, for instance, when a Buddhist will say that samsara is the same as nirvana. In other words, that even non-duality and duality are the same. So the idea of non-duality


is a little more subtle than one might think. And then, finally, mystical unity between God and the human person. We're surprised to find that number five, we'd put it number one, probably coming from a Christian point of view, and so would Merton in his early works. In his later works, he might also not put it number one. So those are just... What I'm trying to do is illustrate that this notion of non-duality is more than a notion, and it expands along all these dimensions. So really it's an indefinable experience, and in a sense it's the experience. The experience of experiences in which everything is transformed, and you are not separate from any of it. And all of this in the one, in the union, the unity that is, which is God. Yes? Just repeat the first two again. Yes. The first one was the negation of dualistic thinking. Merton gets to this in that section that we had for this time, okay, where he talks about the kind of, oh, what the lumber


man's thinking versus the child in the forest. That same page, he talks in quite a focused, precise way about this. The idea of the knowledge of good and evil is our Christian equivalent, okay? That after Adam and Eve ate from the tree, their vision was changed. Remember, their eyes were opened? But what did it mean that their eyes were opened? It's ironic, isn't it? Their eyes were opened, and suddenly they were scared of God, they were ashamed, they covered themselves up, and they were no longer really friends any longer either. Everything somehow was alienated from that point. They were thinking, from that point, dualistically in some way. The knowledge of good and evil is this non-unitive knowledge to fall into duality from non-duality. Merton will say that, and also Suzuki, it's curious that he's got into this dialogue with D.T. Suzuki in Zen and Birds of Appetite, and Suzuki uses the very image from Genesis. He picks that up as his preferred image from the Christian tradition for this difference between dualistic thinking and non-dualistic thinking, that


Adam and Eve fall into duality. It's beautiful, really. It's perfect, coming from that particular angle. It's not a complete interpretation of that scripture text, obviously, but it's perfect in its way. It's hard to improve on it. So, the first one was the negation of dualistic thinking, that positive-negative thinking. The second is the non-plurality of the world. In other words, we live in a universe which can seem to be an aggregate of different things, or can be perceived as being one thing. See, there's a great revolution in this direction right now, the whole Gaia movement, for instance, which sees the planet as one living being, Earth as one living being, the revival of the notion of the world soul, and so on. One living being from which you are not separate.


You don't look at it from outside, you know it from inside itself. So the world being one thing. And when we say world, in this sense we don't mean just the planet, either we mean the universe, don't we? We mean everything. Everything we know. From a Christian perspective, everything that's created. Yes? In some ways it seems paradoxical to have five distinct points about non-duality, etc. It is, yeah. Wouldn't that last, really? I mean, it's not like you have five festivals during the same order, but the fifth embraces them all. For me, it's as if the first four are kind of prefiguring the preparations for the fifth. Yeah, I think from a Christian perspective, I think that's true. From a Buddhist perspective, the first one might absorb all the other four. But in either case, what you say is true. That is, you see the importance of this, however, because this sketches out your territory and shows you that the way you're thinking of it now is probably along one of these dimensions, okay? Because that's what we usually do. So this is pushing out the various dimensions


of the notion of non-duality, after which you sort of collapse those members, those beams again, and just allow it to be itself as a total reality, which is unanalyzable. Because it's completely ironic to analyze it into dimensions and categories when it is the very experience of non-partitionability or something like that, you know, unity. Just to throw a frog into the soup, I think even a good Hindu would not even say that God and the created are one, because that implies that there's two things being one. They would just say that they're not two. I mean, non-dual is even more accurate than unitive. They're not two. They're not different. That's right. Yeah, the language, I think all of our expressions are going to fall short in some way, so each one we use it, and then we have to realize that what we're talking is beyond it in some way, and that we've abused what we're talking about in some way


with our word, you know. But the expression non-dual has the advantage of starting from the side of non-duality rather than moving towards the side of non-duality from a divided. However, notice that the Christian perspective in general, the Judeo-Christian perspective, differs from the Asian perspective because we move from duality to unity. This is true even in our lives, you know. The whole thing. Think of law and gospel. The movement from law to gospel, from Old Testament to New Testament, I believe, can be seen as a movement from duality to non-duality. So that's our pattern, whereas in the Asian traditions you're more likely to postulate on original non-duality and then sort of try to return to it, in a sense, to enter into it through interiority. Instead of historically speaking, it has to do with our historical quality, you know,


the Western tradition. We're historical people, it's a historical tradition. And that means dualism. We start there. We move from history to the point, to the infinite point of the non-dual, which is in Christ, it's in baptism, it's in the resurrection, and so on. I think I understand what you're saying, but could you flesh it a little bit more? What do you mean by the duality of the law as opposed to the non-duality? The duality of the law as opposed to the non-duality. Okay, sure. Yes. All right. The law says you're to do this and not to do that, okay? The law says if you do this, you are good and you are approved by God. If you do not do this, or if you do that, you are not. You're either inside the law or outside the law. Paul says at one point, he makes this wild statement, that because of the law sin arose, because there was no sin before there was a law. He's using that in a rhetorical way. He said something like that, okay?


So the fact of the law creates the possibility of transgression, okay? And the fact of the law divides your life, so that you're acting from an exterior principle, the principle exterior to yourself, by distinguishing that which is lawful from that which is unlawful, okay? Now suppose there's another principle that comes from within yourself, an interior principle, which does not work by distinctions, but somehow by inclusion, okay? Which is what the Holy Spirit does according to the New Testament. The Spirit which knows all things, the Spirit which somehow embraces everything. The principle then is to remain within the non-dual, to remain within the unitive, the actual, ultimate, absolute, infinite unitive, rather than stepping outside of it into the darkness and illusion of duality once again. Paul says that the law is for sinners, the law is not for the just, okay? Because it's the people who are outside, in the world of dualism,


in the world of fragmentation, the land of unlikeness, as the Father's called, who must make these distinctions. But if you have the law within you, that law of the Spirit is a non-dual law. It's not something I think that we grab right away, but if you stay with it, it makes more sense. Well, also the Church is still in the face of the law right now, it's not in the face of the gospel. Precisely, and which turns people off from the Church in droves. However, the Church will always have to have, I suppose, that aspect, that exterior aspect of law and prescription, and you can do this and you can't do that, and so on. We don't like it, but it's sort of the lower run of the whole thing, and it's got to be there, because we're in that kind of world. And most practicing Catholics are still entrenched in variables. That's right. But when it takes over, when it predominates,


and when that's the image which the Church communicates, then we're in trouble. When the Church believes that that's what it is, then we're in trouble. Talking of staking out territory, I wanted to ask you, where do we put the boundary between the notion of the unitive, non-dualistic, putting on the mask of Christ, or the notion of the inner self as well, and then the position where we say there's an identity between divinity and the human? Where do we put the marker? I'm not sure that I entirely understand your question, but Martin is going to talk about that as we go on here. People have argued over that and worried over that for centuries and centuries, you know. And the definition which Martin will always go back to when necessary is that God and the human person are ontologically distinct and are united gratuitously in the contemplative experience, let us say,


but also already in baptism. But the experience which you hear about and which he writes about is continually, more or less, ignoring that because it is a celebration, as it were, of the overcoming of that dualism, of that duality. So there isn't obviously an ontological duality, but the trick in that, the secret in that, the mystery in that is that together with that there's a basic unity of some kind which we can't even put into language without transgressing in some way. And that's what we mean when we say that we move from duality to non-duality in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The secret of non-duality beneath all of this is a mystery which we cannot penetrate. And so we approach it, as it were, linearly, historically, by moving towards it from duality. But that secret we're not able to... So we talk about ontological distinction, but what does that mean?


Because the very core of our being, the very core of our existence is God. And the mystics like Eckhart will talk about a divine spark in us, and so on. But whenever we try to put that in hard theological language we get into trouble. It doesn't permit itself to be expressed in our abstract language in a satisfactory way because we're putting it into dualistic language and it demands another language, if it can be spoken in a human language at all. I think sometimes I think that a principle like Sophia, like the divine wisdom, is a better solution to this than our almost entirely and monolithically masculine theological tradition. Yes? You say in the West we begin with the dual and move towards the union. Yes. This is true, kind of phenomenologically. Couldn't you say that at the best there's this intuition that begins in the garden, it doesn't begin with the law of Sinai that comes open later, it begins in this unitive situation. And also in the New Testament it begins with grace,


it just begins with this initiative of God that establishes communion with God. So maybe we're getting back to that primordial convenience at the depth of our Judeo-Christian way of seeing it. Unfortunately we've gotten locked into the dualistic, but maybe that's not the Judeo-Christian at its best. Yes, what I'm trying to say I think is this. What you say about... See, the theological vision, the best theologians, whether Maximus the Confessor or whoever it be, will find the non-dual at the source. You have to do that, okay? In other words, we can't start with a... We can't have a metaphysics of dualism, obviously, okay? However, the path that we walk in our tradition has this pattern woven into it very deeply of moving from law to grace, let us say. When you say that the New Testament starts with grace, yes, but this is with the prelude of law. That is, on the face... The prelude to the law is this mysterious pre-law economy


that grace recovers. So it's recovery, not a new... And that's what Paul says in Romans. He says before the law was we have grace, okay? But our experience, okay? I think the New Testament of Judeo-Christian tradition takes us where we are in a world of dualism and fragmentation in a fallen condition. The fallen condition is a condition of what we call extreme dualism, aggravated dualism. So it takes us there and moves us towards the beginning. And what you have, for instance, in John's Gospel is that the beginning, the non-dual beginning, comes into the dualistic world, okay? The word, the logos, is the non-dualistic beginning of the whole thing, of the creation. It comes into the middle of the world and then somehow transforms the world from this non-dualistic center within it, starting from there, okay? Yeah, the prologue is a wonderful case. The beginning was the word, the word was, we would call it the word of wisdom. That's right. That's the, what would you call it? That's the non-dual credo,


the credo of non-dualism of Christianity right there in the prologue of John. But it comes to us in our situation of dualism, and that's what I mean, our journey, our walk begins with dualism. And it's a practical tradition in that sense. I think you'd find that in any of the great traditions that there's an implicit dualism in the way that they operate, no matter what the philosophy is, you know, no matter what the ultimate experience is. Buddhism too, you know. It starts out, I'm sure, with law in the practical life of the disciple. The implicit karma. Opening and closing doors and things like that. There's dualism. Okay. Let's see. It's a question of how to spend our time because I don't think we're going to have much time for that Merton section today. I would presume that you've sort of digested that. Let's just run through these theses about contemplation.


The first one, if it's taken us half an hour to talk about it, that's because it somehow contains everything. The second one is Merton's principle, which I'm adopting here. Contemplation is a direct experience, a realization of the self. And we'll be seeing that again and again. Three. Therefore, it's not limited to persons of any particular faith or religion. It's not a particularly, peculiarly Christian experience. Now, we'd have to qualify this from another side as well by saying, ah, yes, but everybody's an anonymous Christian. And I believe that's true. And every non-dual experience somehow is in the word, is in the logos. And I believe that too. But we're not approaching it from that angle. And from our point of view, we want to say that this is something that's shared by all the great spiritual traditions and is central to the Asian spiritual traditions. Yes? Could you go back to two just for a second?


Actually, there was something I had underlining the Merton thing that I was going to ask you about. And that is, on your page seven, he says, a pure metaphor, a way of saying that our being somehow communicates directly with the being of God who is in us, directly into the being of God. Immediately, you're saying there, contemplation is a direct experience. Immediate, I'm thinking of as unmediated, like nothing between us and God. What part of the, oh, here it is. Part of the, after the Christian, halfway down the Christian approach. All right. All of this is, of course, a pure metaphor. Yeah. Our being somehow communicates directly with the being of God who is in us. Well, it's that word, directly, and also you said direct experience. But I'm thinking of the word immediate. I seem to recall, I mean, that is a... I think what he means is immediate.


Not in the sense of time, not instantly, but without mediation. Well, that's what I'm saying. Yeah. Is there not some debate among theologians of grace whether there can be an immediate, unmediated experience of God in this life? I mean, don't people sometimes... Yeah, they do. And I think very often when they do, I think they're not really taking this experience into consideration. The principle that there's nothing in the intellect, or that it hasn't come through sense, and so on, you know, is valid up to a certain point. But this is the point. See, this experience is the one that somehow relativizes all the boundary lines, that somehow says yes but to all of those qualifications, this experience of immediacy. A lot of theologians are very determined on one line, like, well, there'd be liturgical theologians


who say nothing is... nothing that isn't mediated through symbols or something like that, or, you know, through ritual or something like that. Yes, but there is something else. This is the point at which analytical theology and the theology that makes hard rules just isn't able quite to do it, isn't able quite to reach this point. And the better theologians will recognize that, at least put a footnote. Yes, the whole thesis of what we're talking about, the whole thesis of what we're talking about is that there is an immediate experience of God, is a unitive experience of God in which the union is the knowledge, and the knowledge is the union. And if you say, well, it's still mediated by your psyche, this somehow... we have to distinguish psyche and spirit. And suppose we say that the spirit is unitive, that there is a unitive faculty in us which is not recognized by most Western theology.


Or, on another level, to be able to say that a human person can have an experience of God without the veil. Yes. I mean, is that possible? It depends on what you're saying. I would say the veil is, because I think John of the Cross would say that even in the most, the greatest unitive experience in this life, there's still a veil. But what do we mean by the veil at that point? I don't know. There's still a veil somehow of mortality. There's some kind of veil still between the human person and the divinity. But the veil experientially nearly disappears at that point. And we're talking about things that we really, at that point, can't talk about. Yeah, I think it's that nearly area. I mean, I remember somebody talking at length about that once and just insisting that the human person will always have, in this life, will always have... No, I think John of the Cross... They will have immediacy because of that. Yeah, but I think there's immediacy in spite of that. In other words, I don't think the veil is a mediation, exactly.


The veil is some kind of limitation on the experience of union. And when I say that, I'm not, you know, understanding very well what I'm saying. But I'm trying to make some kind of distinction. But I think John of the Cross does insist on the veil. In this life. It's in one of his... Is it the spiritual canticle where he says, Break the veil. Now is the time to break the veil. The beloved says to the lover. And I think he says in the commentary probably that the veil remains in this life. It has to do with mortality. That we're not just freed into the Godhead in this mortal life. Yes, sir. I also have a question about the inner self or the true self or second point. Yes. That's the main topic of Bertini's presentation. Yes. And he presents it in a rather elusive way. As I think, in reality, the inner self is like that. I mean, you cannot take it as an object. That's right, exactly. But in essence, can we say that


the inner self or the true self of each one is the self according to the design of God? Yes. Or the secret name given to each one when it is recognized in the depth of our being and responds to that becomes the awakening of the self. We can certainly say that. I'm certain that Merton says nearly that at some point. Yes, he says that. In his various books. For instance, either in Seeds of Contemplation or New Seeds of Contemplation, he nearly says that. Yes, isn't he? He says that we are a word of God. And he also gets into the language of name, I believe. So, it is that. And it is also unitive in the sense that the word is one with that which it comes from in some way. That is, the boundary line between this true self and God himself and the divinity is very, not only permeable, but even in some way relative, even questionable, even such as the grace of God.


Okay. I just want to show sort of the coherence of these principles. Not all of which, you know, are infallible either. Number four. Notice, this is not just an isolated experience because there is one problem with this, all right? A person can go through the whole of his life, even a religious person, a devout person, a spiritual person, and a monk, without ever experiencing this in its pure form. So, what's the good of talking about it? If it's a rare experience, if it's a rare birth. But is it only that? Is it only that if what we've said is true, if it has that relation to the inner self? Because aren't we always relating to the inner self? Aren't we always in between the old man and the new man? Isn't that Christ self always trying to break through the shell, as it were? Isn't it always expressing itself? Doesn't it in some way influence or permeate all of our life, all of our response? Now, if that's true, then in some way the contemplative experience,


the contemplative reality, is related to all of our life as well. All right? Now, notice that in number three, we're expanding this to all of humanity along the line of people. Okay? Other people, all people. And here we're expanding this into the fullness of humanity. As you might say, in the individual person, in the fullness of the realization of the individual person, or the ordinary life, all the dimensions of the life of the ordinary person. Okay? So we're trying to bring this contemplative reality and experience into every part of the human world, both the world of all humanity, all peoples, and also all of my humanity, all of your humanity. Okay? Yes? There, I think, it would be... It's a difficult question. Is it really a difficult question, or does our common sense answer it?


Okay? In other words, what does our common sense say about that? That somehow, sin is a slap in the face of the true self, so it involves the true self. Okay? Something like that. All right. It's a renunciation. It's defying the pressure of the true self in our life. It's defying the pressure and the light of the inner self, the Christ self in ourselves, in order to create a little pocket of darkness. Okay? So it certainly is in touch with the true self, but in an inverse or ironic way. Okay? Now we have two modes of being present, you know. The presence of my degree in all of the activities of the human person. Yes. And then you have this mode of negation or absence or inversion, as you call it. Yes, yes. No, I think that's certainly true. That is in every sphere of activity,


because consciousness is involved, and freedom is involved in every sphere of activity or should be, either by its presence or by its exclusion. Because if we think of the true self as something that is pressing upon our life, trying to push itself out into our life, trying to realize itself in all of our life, in everything that we do, you know, so that we will become actually conscious and become actually free. So think of freedom and consciousness. Think of light and fire as pushing into our life at every point, at every moment, you know. That's the kind of... Okay, now number five is one interpretation or one perspective for, what do you say, explaining that or developing it a little further. That is, contemplation is a direct experience of the ground of consciousness. And I refer to Rahner here, to Karl Rahner, because that's his epistemology, I believe, basically. Even if he never quite says it or very rarely quite says it, the experience


of the transcendent or the presence of the transcendent is in every act of cognition. In everything that we know, we know God. In everything that we love, we love God, implicitly and perhaps even inversely or perversely in some way, you know. But it's in all of our inner life. So in some way the light of the contemplative experience, just as the light of heaven, the light of the sun is in everything that we do outdoors, in all of our activities and so on. It even permeates us because that's where we get our energy. So this contemplative experience is not separate, is not unrelated to any part of our conscious life. Now, as the ground of consciousness, what does that mean? It's like the light in which we see light, the light in which we are conscious. It's like the basic pure light of which consciousness is a reduced form, something like that, our ordinary consciousness. On the ground of consciousness, is that objective


or subjective, generally? That is, you're saying it's the ground of consciousness having this direct experience, or are you saying it's a direct experience of the ground? No, I mean it's a direct experience of that which is the ground of ordinary consciousness. So you can even capitalize with this... Which word? Ground. Yes, yes, you could. Accordion. Yeah, that's an accordion word. You know, grunt is it? Grund. Urgrund. How's that? But who is experiencing it? Who? The human subject is experiencing this ground, is that it? Yes. But isn't the human... Well, if you say the human subject disappears, you know, but... I don't think we need to be pushed around by our language in that way, though. We're free to talk about it. Particularly since


we're not only talking of the pure experience, but we're talking of its reduced forms, you know, or lesser forms, which are partial experiences of the ground of consciousness. You can say that every conscious experience is an experience of the ground of consciousness, but it's filtered, diminished, refracted, you know, in every way. Well, lesser in participation in the ground of consciousness, but to the extent that the contemplative experience is pure, what we're saying is that it is a direct and full experience of the ground of consciousness, of the light, as it were, which is the ground or light of all of our consciousness. And I think the special contribution of Brahman is the experience of Brahman as something concomitant to everything we experience. Exactly, exactly. Just like the light. In the light we see all the objects. That's right. And the fact is we can see it's not direct.


It's immediate, but not direct. Our direct attention is paid to the objects, not the light. That's right. So it's reflected. Just as the light of the sky is reflected from the objects that we see. So it's more profound. It's immediate and profound, but at the same time not necessarily direct. He doesn't often talk about the direct experience of transcendence, does he? I think he does where he talks about discernment and the exercises of Saint Ignatius. Remember? He had a famous article on the discernment of spirits there. That's right. And he talks about what is it? That experience which is un... There's a Spanish expression for it. That unprepared experience, direct experience of spirit. He said consolation without previous cause. Yeah, that's it. That's it. ConsolaciĆ³n sin causa or something like that in Spanish. So that's, as it were, the flash of direct experience of the ground of consciousness which would be what we're talking about here, which for him


is a criterion of discernment. If that way is clear, as it were, to that light of consciousness, it means somehow that we are moving in the right way, I suppose he would say. We have not clouded our consciousness by a wrong decision, by a wrong movement. Okay, the next one, six. We move into an expression And Ken Wilber, by the way, is the one who wrote The Spectrum of Consciousness and who reduces everything, as it were, to one spectrum and one principle, seeing the ultimate reality as being consciousness and everything else, as it were, built upon the ground of an infinite consciousness. So, but, I don't want to take a sidetrack into him right now. And he's coming from a, basically, I suppose he's called a Buddhist metaphysic, so we can't accept everything that he says. Faith is a dark unit of knowledge, the beginning of contemplation. Faith,


as a unit of knowledge, faith, Christian faith, I'm thinking particularly of Christian faith, the faith in Jesus, the faith of the person who... Believing person in some way contains all this wisdom within him, within her. That kind of thing, okay. And then faith may become gradually illumined so that, and filled in, as it were, so that this becomes an explicit unit of knowledge. But I think it's because it's a unit of knowledge that it reaches so deep. Consider the importance of faith in the New Testament. And faith is some kind of knowledge, there's no way out of it. Faith is a knowing. But consider its role in the New Testament. We're going to call everything, absolutely everything, depends upon and turns upon faith. The one thing that makes a difference in our life is faith. And then love, of course, which is somehow inseparable from faith. The two are somehow one thing, like two sides of one thing, two phases of one thing, two modes of one thing.


But everything turns upon faith. Faith is the basic cognition, the basic connection. And John of the Cross says the same thing. So faith has to be has to be arriving at the same point we're talking about when we talk about this unit of knowledge and we talk about this true self, doesn't it? This core of our personality, this core of our being. That's got to be the same center, the same pivot that we're talking about when we talk about contemplation as a unit of knowledge. So we introduce this thesis. And we can... Martin will go on at length about faith when he's coming from St. John of the Cross as he frequently does. Okay, seven. We'll get to this next time when we talk about Christian contemplation. Now, Martin says in Seeds of Contemplation and in New Seeds that the seeds of contemplation are planted in the Christian at baptism. Okay? And then they develop later on through a life of faith and a life of asceticism and a life of detachment


and of prayer. Can we say more? If you read the early Christian tradition you get the idea that it was in the experience of baptism remember they were baptized as adults that this actually happened to them. And it wasn't only a seed it was somehow an experience of fullness. They looked back to the baptismal experience as having been like the not only the rising of the sun but the sun in its full splendor in some way. The fullness of the baptismal experience. The fullness of the grace of Christ somehow experienced at baptism. This has got to be what we're talking about. I believe it is. They call it illumination you know, Photismos. Now, we don't find the word contemplation in the New Testament as Martin points out but it's hidden in all of these other expressions for unitive experience. One of which is the baptismal experience of light and the other particularly is the experience of communion of koinonia of love


agape. Those two. Eight is something we've already covered. Here I'm attempting to put it in a Christian perspective. In Christian tradition you find much talk of union but little talk of unity. Much talk of union with God especially in the Carmelite tradition. But not much talk about the unity of the person or simply unity without any adjective. Nine Contemplation is the experience both as light and as darkness. Often you find the expression a ray of darkness or dark light in Martin and John of the Cross and I think it starts with Gregory of Nyssa. And of course you'll find that same kind of thing in Dionysius and throughout the apophatic tradition. But the idea of positive the positive presence in light of God being able to be experienced as darkness that can be very important to to have that idea


when you go through certain things. Okay, ten is related to four. It's just the other side of it as it were. We can talk about a pure contemplative experience and then we can talk about a lot of other partially contemplative experiences. We can talk about a pure unitive experience a non-dual experience and then we can talk about a whole bunch of participative experiences which are not dualistic and yet are not pure either. Now Martin will distinguish later I think it's in his when we get to the fourth section I think. He talks about kinds of contemplations and he'll talk about pure or mystical contemplation the unitive experience and its purity and fullness and then he'll talk about active contemplation or natural contemplation and so on. So we'll get into those fine distinctions later on. Eleven I've put down here


just a few qualities of this pure contemplative experience. It's very paltry. You could say a lot more about it but we'll go into that later and we can expand the list at that time. Connected with this is the next handout there page three which is all taken from this book of Claudio Noronho Noronho I believe he's a Chilean psychologist transpersonal psychologist called The One Quest. The book's about 20 years old now I think. He's talking about the convergences and he comes from a transpersonal psychology which itself is developing the boundary line between psychology and spirituality between psyche and spirit basically. So it's got a naturally convergent or synthetic approach and he says that these three paths come together here. Education or human development or human growth could be philosophy in the classic sense you know


idea or whatever it leaks in. Psychotherapy as it gets beyond just pathology and moves into the personal growth realm with Maslow you know and they call it the third wave or whatever it was and humanistic psychology and then transpersonal psychology begins to become not just a therapy not just a healing but a development and thirdly religion or spirituality as we might say. And then he talks about these four different ways which in Hinduism I believe are called the four margas remember the way of pure contemplation would be mindfulness the fourth one there or the way of knowledge the way of learning the way of feeling the way of action you know bhakti and karma and all those I'm always mixing up a couple of them jhana and something else and then what I'm getting to is in C these


qualities or aspects of the development okay now notice we're not just talking about contemplation we're talking about the whole human path what happens when a person matures what happens when a person becomes actualized or realized when the true self as it were begins to appear and begins to take over so these are the qualities which he finds and transpersonal and humanistic psychologists have done a lot of work on this kind of thing Maslow worked a lot on this kind of thing trying to identify that beast that's emerging there as a human person moves towards realization now notice a lot of this resonates with Merton with what Merton's been saying about the true self it's a more systematic and easier to grasp I think picture than Merton gives you because he's often being poetic about it and speaking about it at length the shift in identity that's where Merton starts the movement from the false self the exterior self to the interior self increased


contact with reality and he'll talk about that notice in the second section which I read for this class as you move you withdraw from the world in some way you make a new contract with reality with the world in a different way in which you're really closer to it than you were before okay thirdly simultaneous increase in both participation and detachment I'm happy to find that word participation there particularly that somehow as this wall of the false self breaks down you're both more free from the things that you relate to and you relate to them more deeply there's a paradox there four simultaneous increase in freedom and the ability to surrender a paradox which is parallel to the other one isn't it on a slightly different frontier five unification interpersonal interpersonal between body and mind subject and object man and god


there he's getting to our core isn't he he's getting to what we're talking about and what Merton talked about in the beginning remember not only did he talk about the true self but he talked about the self which is a unity he started out by saying you've got to get it together this whole issue is about the unity of the person that the thing which chiefly qualifies the true self is it's a unitive self six increased self acceptance Merton hasn't been talking much about that he sort of presupposes it I think he'll talk about it at an angle when he talks about the problems of the contemporary person coming into monastic life and he does that at length in other books it's connected to that question of identity in number one isn't it the shift in identity and the increased self acceptance are almost two sides of the same thing as Karen Honeye says together with the search for glory


the idealized self the false self there's a deep self hatred and as one gets in touch with the true self those two things no longer he's no longer stretched on a rack of those two poles but somehow they come together the interior self the true self doesn't have a problem of acceptance it's almost self-verifying in a sense you get that sense when you read the gospel and see Jesus in the gospel he doesn't have a self acceptance problem seven increasing consciousness okay and since we're talking about contemplation of course that seems obvious but we've been talking about contemplations and how soaking into every part of life so that an increase of consciousness in all departments of life we may return to this list later on when we're talking about one or another of these categories that handout that follows there i've got to explain those things just a little bit i think it's what is it number four h4


those are three texts on non-dual experience in the west that is a pretty full acceptance and expression of the non-dual experience and this is rare in our western tradition that's why it seemed worthwhile to take three points where we find it now notice patinus is not christian but his view and his unitive view has been absorbed by so much of our christian tradition starting with st augustine and i think some of the greek fathers too and secondly meister eckhart in the 13th century and then thomas martin it would be very interesting to talk about how these three points relate historically and what the fact of these three breakthroughs let us say may say to us today and the position of christianity but we can't do that now let me give you the dates for those three just for the


record martin is 1915 to 1968 patinus i believe is something like 205 to 270 with a question mark that's from the oxford dictionary christian church about 205 to 270 eckhart died in 1274 didn't he same year as st thomas aquinas no i'm trying to think of monumentary there it was 1327 i wrote it down and then lost it yeah i wrote it


down somewhere well i'll give it to you when i find it i know that's where we start okay here we go patinus is about 205 to 270 eckhart is about 1260 i think it's only the first date that's in doubt 1327 merton 1915 to 1968 and of course merton or eckhart is influenced by patinus and merton is influenced by both patinus and eckhart or patinus through eckhart but they're also each one is talking i think about personal experience as


well as conveying a tradition you know now the other pages that you have there are a bunch of texts from thomas merton on contemplation okay that's h5 starting with that earliest uh major writing on contemplation called what is contemplation and through the other works which are listed by shannon at the end of his book with their dates if you're interested um and just a selection of quotes on this subject from each one of them if you look through them it's very interesting the development and the various influences also that you can detect there that may be also confusing at first but we'll refer to those we'll come back to these quotes especially when we talk i think about the the pure contemplation and united experience okay i've kept you too long for today sir thank you glory be to the father and to the son and to the holy spirit


as it were as it should have happened world without him harmony you