Contemplation and Inner Experience

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

Class III

Contemplative Prayer Set 1 of 2

AI Summary: 




#class-series; #monastic-class-series


We've been a little scattered and we haven't really commented a lot on Merton's text. I think that's okay because we can sort of be following two tracks with reference to Merton and then also discussing questions that come up in reading Merton's text, but we don't necessarily have to follow it paragraph by paragraph. He's pretty clear. Last time, you may remember, we talked about some theses about contemplation, and that's a list which we'll develop further as we go on. We'll tack more on from different angles. And also we talked about those qualities of maturity, which seem to be convergent, whether you're talking about human development, whether you're talking about psychotherapy, or whether you're talking about monastic asceticism, spiritual development. That list from Navranjo's book that I quoted to you, you have it on the handout too. We were going to talk about the context of contemplation, which Merton was doing in his


second section there, but we didn't get very far with it. I'd just like to point out one or two simple things which sometimes are helpful for having a mental picture, in order to give things a certain order, keep things in place. If you look at the world religions, they tend to split themselves down the middle into two kinds. One is very easy to identify because it's our Judeo-Christian revelation, and it includes Islam, of course. These are the three religions of the word, in which God comes into the world through his word. God enters, you may feel aggressively, but at least articulately, he enters and reveals himself. The other religions, or the Asian religions, the great ancient and highly developed spiritual traditions of the East, are something quite different from that. They may be avatars, there may be manifestations, but it's not a collective, communal, historical revelation, anything like the same sense.


It has a whole different feel, a whole different fabric to it. What we do find at the center of those Asian religious traditions is the non-dual experience. I refer to that book by David Loy, which still isn't on the shelf, our class shelf is still non-materialist. It should today. So, on the one hand, we have the religions of the word, and on the other hand, we have the religions of non-dualism, which sometimes don't function very well. Let's work. Try this one. I know who's done away with the chalk, it's the fellow who cleans that book over there. On the one side, you've got the religions of the word, and on the other side, you've got the religions of non-duality. That's a very crude oversimplification. Nevertheless, it's very useful in this way.


Consider that in the Benedictine tradition, our basic monastic practice is Lectio. That's the contemplative root of our spirituality. And also, you may say, well, liturgy is at the center. Yes, but what is liturgy? Liturgy is a kind of embodiment of the word. It's a kind of embodiment of the revelation, in a sense. It's an actualization or enacting, an enacting of the word. Often in the history of religions, they say that there's myth and there's ritual. Instead of myth, we've got the word. We've got this revelation, the sacred history. And our ritual, the liturgy, goes right out of that. The two go together. They're one thing, really. Of course, you also have ritual in these other religions. One practice, therefore, which is fundamental, is our Lectio. The other one, I think, that goes along with it, that is in a good parallel, is meditation, is the emptiness of meditation. In other words, descending into what we were calling the non-dual or the unitive. The quiet sitting, the descent to the center,


that opening, as it were, of the screen of consciousness to the infinite, to the unconditioned. Those two go along together. And they, together, interact and produce what I would call a sapiential spirituality, in which we go deeper and deeper into the word. And in which the non-dual experience is given a structure and a content. It's given a body, as it were, by the word. So there's an interaction between those two. Now, of course, that's not all we have in our life. And sooner or later, you know we're going to get to one of these. I've turned it upside down now, so I've put this non-dual experience at the bottom. And I think I put the word over here. And over here, I think we could put community,


something like that, relationship. And this too is proof. It's just an idea of filling out the spectrum, of trying to put this in the universe or in the context of our whole life. And up here, you could put something like work, which is the material expression of our monastic life, or whatever is pumping here at the center. And this obviously has a Trinitarian background to it. In other words, we're thinking of the invisible, almost unnameable Godhead, and it's two expressions in the word and in the spirit. And then finally, a kind of embodiment, which for Jesus was not just work, but it was also suffering, it was passion. There are a lot of things that go up here, obviously. If you've seen this before, it's probably the other way around, with word over there and something else over here. And also, I remember a book by, once again,


Ron Howard Hornstein called The Psychology of Meditation. Some of you have heard this before. Where he points out that there are three kinds of meditation. I found it very useful. The three you can expand to four. But the three that he talks about are, first, the way of forms, which corresponds to our way of the word. Secondly, the way of movement, which corresponds for us to song, to a lot of our liturgical practice, and to any kind of affective prayer. Remember, where Ashen talks about the prayer of fire, which would be pure movement. Think of the charismatic thing in tongues. In other words, there's a dynamism, there's a flow. Call it a flow of psyche or of spirit, whichever you like, because it's really both, I think. But your prayer is somehow identifying itself with that flow, with that movement, with that dynamism, with that flame. Whereas in the way of forms, you're centered and attached to some kind of image, or word, or mental apparition. Idea, image, word, symbol. All of those things which initiate a different kind of activity


in your mind, in your psyche. It's like mind and feeling. It's like, as Rana says, rationality and emotion. But then there's a third type of meditation he points out, which is the meditation of emptiness. And that's his triangle. The first one in the way of forms he calls Apollonian, or Apollinian. The second one he calls Dionysian. And the third one, really, it's the way of emptiness, typically Zazen for the third word. Or any empty prayer of quiet, let us say. That track of the apophatic meditation. Which is also... Excuse me? Who is this author, sir? Naranjo, Claudio Naranjo. The book is The Psychology of Meditation. I think I've got it out now, I'll put that on the Clare shelf. It's a little book, very useful. But there's a fourth way, especially for the Christian. Remember that our way is a way of faith. And Merton will talk a lot about light and darkness. The fact that contemplation itself is a kind of light and darkness, or darkness and light, whichever you prefer.


The fourth way is in the obscurity, then, of even being without the explicit thought of praying, or of the presence of God, which is simply in your activity. That's what would be up here. In other words, in a life in grace, your very life itself, your very activity, especially if it's service, is a kind of meditation. It's a kind of flow of that same non-dual experience, that same unitive reality of God's grace, through your life and out into the world. In other words, an expression of that, a good expression of that is obedience. What have you done in the case of obedience? You've become transparent to something which is greater than yourself, have you not? You've deliberately put your own ego and your own will out of the way, so that the One can act through you. Presuming that, let's say, the order of the superior... Unfortunately, it's very often not true in our case. But... Presuming that the order of the superior


is mediating this One to you. That's the idea, though, isn't it? From a contemplative point of view, the idea is to get your ego out of the way, to be transparent to the one thing that there is. Is it not? So, obedience is a good illustration just for that reason. But a lot of other things in monastic life are like that. It's apophatism carried to the point of getting yourself out of the way, of disappearing, in a sense, into the one thing, into the one reality. So, work and obedience are good expressions of that. And you could call them, therefore, the fourth or the invisible way of meditation. I think a Zen person would be very much in agreement about that, because he would say that Zen is every moment of your life, you know? Carrying water and chopping wood and chopping wood and chopping wood. Is it kind of related to the domestic notion of the habitus? Yes. Because the habitus is acting even when you are not conscious of it, right? But if you are acting in virtue of that habitus, which is,


let us say, a divine habitus, then that's it. You are there, you know? So the life of faith itself, even when not... What would you say? Explicit, conscious or thematic in terms of the divine presence, the divine reality, is yet functioning in virtue. Think of the incarnation as well, you know? Incarnation means that every bit of life is capable of being filled with divinity. And it doesn't mean that we become monomaniacs by just thinking every minute, as we try to do when we begin. You try to pray constantly in the sense of being always conscious of God. And then the wheels start slipping, if not. I am just wondering about that notion of habitus, because as I recollected, I thought habitus was kind of the middle term between will and then doing it. But how did you get from intending to do something and then doing it? Martin, you got me into this trap. Martin, you got me into this trap. You're responsible to learn. Well, the way you described


that non-thinking but acting, that's how I always understood the habitus, when it becomes so natural to one of this virtue that one acts naturally without thinking almost in a sense. I know I struggled with the problem when I was in the seminary working on Skid Row, talking with one senior, John, just saying, I don't have enough time for prayer and I just can't seem to put together my work, my ministry, with my desire for God. And he gave a beautiful talk asking me, well, did you ever study St. Thomas in the seminary? And talking about habitus. And you could see that that was the way he was able to live and pray and put it all together. So when you were saying this, it kind of resonated with what I had heard from my experience.


I think there are a bunch of analogies like in the New Testament and in Christianity, if you think about it. The idea of the grain, of wheat falling into the ground, very often is like the idea of God or the light or the consciousness which has to fall into action, which has to fall into reality in some way. So it's like it falls into the ground of the body, the ground of the earth, the ground of daily life, the ground of the world around it, in a sense. But actually you're losing consciousness of that which you have received as it goes into doing. See, the early Christianity was very much in that line. They'd say, you know, it's not so important what we think or what we say, it's important what we do. It just seems to me that what I heard you talk about, the non-dual about it, in that easy flow, it strikes me that could be kind of more that all-pervasive kind of substratum on which everything else kind of is. I'm not sure that would be happy to... Well, I'm not sure of the technical language either, because I wouldn't have chosen that word, because I'm not familiar enough


with that angle of Thomism. I think Bernard's doing his talk about habitus. No, I'm not, no I'm not. I am, I'm doing an N.A.K. grant. Oh, habitus. As long as you're wearing your habitus, you're absolutely, virtually in contemplation. Thank you. One question. Yeah. This infinite or absolute comes to us through the word or through community or through work. What about mysterious areas like nature, creation? Oh yes, very much. Or the unconscious breathing. I like this idea that at a certain point, it's all-pervasive, this possibility of the open. Yes, I think we could develop this in various ways. For instance, let me develop it just in one other way to try to bring that in.


If you consider, let's say put ourselves in the cosmos, put ourselves in nature and how would this work? I think if you take a scientific route towards the understanding of nature, and you go really deep, like some of the contemporary physicists do, you can reach a kind of threshold of contemplative understanding on the track of science. On the other hand, if you go by the way of poetry and you go really deep, you reach another kind of contemplative experience of nature, which you find frequently, I think, in the poets. Eve Coleridge, when he writes about the contemplative experience, I don't mean the poetic experience, the creative experience, it's a unitive experience in which all of the faculties of the human person are drawn together and you become one with nature in this act, or whatever it is, this poetic genesis. So, it's the same form, reproducing itself in the context of nature. And here is a simple context of nature even sensually. So, I think it's perfectly


transferable into that sphere. And something like the unconscious? The unconscious, I'm inclined to think, would be over on this side. Starting with community, of course, it's hard to make the connection, but what I'd also put over here is psyche, for instance, in the sense of a full psyche, the union psyche, let's say. And therefore also anima, the psyche from a feminine perspective, and largely the unconscious, because the unconscious is on the side of totality rather than specificity. And it's on the side more of the whole, image and movement of psyche, rather than fixed structure and conscious form, which we have over here. So, I think that would be over here. And... It's not too far off, but we talk so often about finding our other half in non-duality.


To even the whole thing out, does the Asian tradition also need to find the other half in the word and in what way? Okay. When we say finding our other half, I think we're using a convenient sketch, sort of, rather than a nuanced thing. Okay? Because from a simple point of view, the people who have devoted themselves to the word have tended to neglect, let us say, this side and also, lately, this side and even largely this side. So, in a sense, it's more than half. But if we just talk about the non-dual and the word, we can say that we need to refine non-duality. After we've said that, then we have other things to fill in. But that's the first crude approximation. That's the other half. I think when B. Griffiths went to India, however, he meant soul and so he meant psyche as well.


Okay? I think that's a first very crude and rhetorical approximation for something which is more complex. First saying that. Then what do they need to find? Well, ultimately, unless we say that their religious track has its own destiny, even if they never find Christ, even if they never find the word, which, it's okay to say that because many people never hear of Christ. Many people who are alive today over there let us say in Asia will never hear of Christ. So, their way of salvation is a different one. You can think of it as an implicit Christianity, if you wish. They need the word and they also need a lot of that which is developed from the logos, from the word, in our western culture. And they're getting it in a terrible way as they get the sort of the ugly end of technology and so on. Okay? But they need that what would you call it? That rational and human development which has happened in the west which is complementary to what they have.


In our tradition itself there already is the word and the non-dual. The non-dual is already there. Prologue to John. But is there an implicit revelation? Is there an implicit revelation even in the Asian experience? I'm thinking it's creation. Yeah, I think it is a revelation but it's not a revelation in our sense. You can say there's a revelation of... I don't want to say transcendence because these words are too crude and simple but there's a revelation which comes and announces itself as a revelation because it's verbal and it's historical. That's our western revelation, Judeo-Christian tradition. There's a revelation of imminence which is the non-dual revelation which is simply in creation already. So, B. Griffiths would talk about that. What would he call it? Cosmic. Cosmic revelation. And I think in terms of imminence because imminence and non-duality as well. There's no need for duality.


There's no need for distinction because it's a kind of movement into resonance with the whole and in an interior way but not only interior. So that's the other revelation. And it's almost as if... See, when Christianity comes into the world it comes into a world which is already divided into that revelation and then a Jewish revelation. And it brings a synthesis but the synthesis has never somehow been allowed to reach its fullness, to reach its maturity because it's always getting eclipsed and amputated and truncated and so on. But we're always on the threshold of that of that synthesis, of that arrival at, let us say, a Christian Advaita, a non-dual Christianity. And that threshold, that horizon is very much alive today. So when we talk about a sapiential Christianity today, that's what we mean. It's a Christianity which is open to its non-dual core


so that it can blossom. But everything tends to inherit that. Excuse me. You say that Christianity offers us a synthesis between the non-dual tradition and then the tradition of the world in Judaism. And given that then, where would Islam fit in? Why would Islam be necessary if the synthesis is given in Christianity? I'll tell you the truth, I don't know why Islam is necessary. It's... Like many others, I find it difficult to look at Islam as a general religious phenomenon in a very positive sense, okay? As individual piety and as a spirituality and looking at Sufism, it's absolutely beautiful. But when you look at it as a historical phenomenon and in the general picture, it's hard to see its place. Sometimes it's almost like a regression because of an unfulfillment. It's almost like something that comes in when Christianity


does not play its role. And it comes in and it fills, as it were, the level of simplicity, which has somehow not been what would you call it? Not been filled by a too sophisticated Christianity or a too institutional Christianity or something like that. I don't understand it well enough to really try to give you an answer. But notice that we're between two pictures. We're between a picture of simply empirical picture of religions and then we don't have to say why Islam is necessary, let us say. It's just there. There is a logic between Judaism and Christianity, isn't there? I mean, we Christians certainly say there is. But Islam is a puzzle to us. I think Islam is the other brother who comes along and says, look, you haven't got it yet. You haven't got it right. And forces us in some way to expand in a direction that we wouldn't have expanded, in other words, to develop. Almost in a negative way. But other than that. And so often


it seems like going back to a fundamentalism, you know, going back to an extreme dualism. A violent dualism. Okay. I'm sorry for throwing this all at you in such a hasty way, but maybe we'll come back to it and clean it up later on. Today we have something very important to talk about. And that is Christian contemplation, okay? And obviously we can't be just to it in half an hour, but we'll do what we can. And maybe pick it up next time too. We haven't said much about Merton's section 2, remember, where he talks a lot about the different aspects of the context of contemplation, about community, about a true and false withdrawal, and exterior and interior religion, and all those things. But he's quite clear about those things. I don't know if we need to add anything. In talking about Christian contemplation


I'd like to pick up the end of his second section, which is on page 27, and then move into the third section. And what I'll do is quite quickly attempt a kind of synthesis of what he's saying. Or a distillation. And then add some further material. At the end of that second section, on page 27, he starts talking about Christian contemplation. He's making a transition to his next section, even though he didn't break it up into these pieces. This is later editing. The fact that contemplation is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us. We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially contemplative in a much higher, more practical and less esoteric sense than Plato's. Now here you see the beginning of a kind of tug of war. A person who looked at the New Testament superficially might say,


especially if they had a prejudice against it, and had another contemplative tradition, might say that there's no contemplation in the New Testament, there's nothing out of word about it. It's all about activity, love, you know, faith, all those things. Nothing about contemplation. On the other hand, you can say that the core of the New Testament, and the entire teaching of the New Testament, that's what it is about, is essentially contemplative. Okay. And when Merton attempts to use the word contemplation and relate it to the New Testament, he's got himself in a bit of a tug of war, as I say. Pulling one way is the word contemplation with its restricted sense, okay? Because it comes from a Greek and Roman tradition, it's a Latin word obviously, but it comes from a Greek tradition in which it had a special sense, a limited sense. It's intellectual, it's elitist, it is, in a sense, anti-material.


And looking from another perspective, it's masculine, it's a purely logos approach to whatever it's talking about, okay? Now, the New Testament knows nothing of these limitations. The New Testament is an explosion of a kind of unitive divinity into the world in which contemplation is the, what would you call it, the cognitive layer, or aspect, or dimension, or experience of this. But the thing itself is bigger than contemplation. The thing itself goes beyond that. And so you'll find immediately Martin having to talk about transformation, or divinization. And he talks about the true self. In other words, contemplation is only one aspect of it. So if we over-specialize, we get too professional about this, we can miss the point. And that's always the risk. There's a tug of war also, as you know, between monasticism and Christianity, between monasticism and the Gospel. Because the two centers are not exactly at the same point. And that's true, of course, in general, that the New Testament, Christ comes into the world and establishes


a center which interacts with every other center. It doesn't simply preempt and take over and replace every other center, and that's true of monasticism itself. So, anyway, I'm getting far afield. In this section, it's a neat little section. When I looked at it first, this last one in section two, this last part, I looked at it first and I said, boy, that's great. It's a nice little concentrated summary of what he means by Christian contemplation. And then I noticed how defensive he is there. He's sort of fighting a mistaken notion of Christian contemplation, or of contemplation in general. Because he will fight to the death in defense of the notion of contemplation, of that whole complex of reality. And the spiritual orientation that it indicates. He pulls into defensive high gear. It reminds me of... What he's fighting is that notion of contemplation. There's a Yeats line that goes,


Amid a rich man's flowering lawns, where slippered contemplation finds its ease. Slippered contemplation. He's kind of... He's kind of intimidated by that accusation. It drives him pretty deep, though. He talks about pagan theoria, and so on, of course. And once again, he's getting into sarcastic gear as well. So when Merton turns a little sour, you know, that's Merton. But there's plenty of positive in what he's talking about, obviously. He talks of pagan theoria here. He won't talk about paganism in a negative sense in many other places. The word contemplation suggests lingering enjoyment, timelessness, and a kind of suave passivity. Which sounds like the world of the earlier Merton. And the first seeds of contemplation. The important thing in contemplation


is not enjoyment nor pleasure, not happiness nor peace, but the transcendent experience of reality and truth in the act of a supreme and liberated spiritual love. You can see that Merton is moving from what he calls the pleasure principle to the reality principle. Gradually, year by year. And he gives great importance to truth as well as to reality. The important thing is not gratification and rest but awareness, life, creativity and freedom. That word creativity is interesting because that's not typical, I don't think, of the ancient and more Platonist views of contemplation, nor of the early Christian views of contemplation. That's something that's in our time, it's in the spirit of our time and we have to deal with that. So he kind of gives this little burst and then goes on to the next section. The structure of this next section


is pretty interesting. He starts out with the part on exile and return. He doesn't give it a number, I've numbered it one, which is about the fall. And it's the classical patristic story of the fall from unity. Remember how we began with Merton's interior experience. It was a question of a unitive being that man, he viewed as man or Adam, was at first somehow integral. And see, in this notion of contemplation it's simply intrinsic in it as the idea of unity because it's a unitive experience. That's the very taste of it, that's the very heart of it in some way, is to be unity. It's almost as if it were the experience of the divine or of oneself as unity, as one. And which immediately slips beyond our consciousness because our language is all dualistic. It's all, it's like not being able to see anything unless it moves or unless there are two of them, you know. That's the way we are.


Man was created as a contemplative. He's still got to use that word because he's fighting a centuries old battle, I think, especially in, let us say, Cistercian monasticism, in defense of that orientation. The fall from paradise was a fall from unity. Now that's a synonym for him with contemplative. Unitive and contemplative are basically synonymous for him, the same thing. Contemplation equals unity. And this image of man somehow being shattered from unity into multiplicity and from being inside himself, as it were, self-contained and thrown out into a dualistic universe, into a world of illusion, it's a very, very powerful myth and metaphor. And Merton uses it elsewhere. Do you remember The New Man, his book The New Man? He does it very nicely there too. And it's classical, futuristic. But notice it


does have a certain bias to it, which is intellectual, which is somewhat spiritualizing, somewhat uninterested in matter. A very masculine or patriarchal bias. Notice what he's got in there about the division of the sexes actually being posterior to sin for some of it. This is a typical Greek picture, okay? And woman as being a temptress. So somehow, and later on, Eve being identified with the psyche, that is being identified with the mutable soul, with the movement of the soul, including the unconscious and all of the instincts, the whole, what would you call it, energy complex of psyche. And being put on a lower level than what? Reason. Which is allied with spirit and nearly identified with spirit. The rational mind, and remember intellect for the Greeks is also a contemplative intellect. It's the noose. And right next to it


is the rational mind. And on a lower level is psyche. And we're still trying to recover from that. The whole of our psychology, you know, that movement of psychology in the last hundred years is an attempt to get out of the problem, out of the box that that's put us into. I'm being over-simple, but it's largely true. That's not just due to the Greeks, of course. Yes? But in this mystical context of the fall, still, what do they do wrong? I mean, is that choice, is that that choosing to eat from the tree, is that a symbol for the breaking into consciousness? It's like there would seem to be a necessary path that you had to somehow get into multiplicity. That's right. That's the unfortunate side effect of consciousness. I mean,


even within that patristic thing, I still feel like Merton has said, yes, what exactly is it that humanity did? Well, you can say that he hasn't assigned himself that task, okay? He hasn't assigned himself the task of answering that question, in this particular paper. I think in The New Man, I think he had to take a better track at that, and try to say what it is. And, of course, the answer would usually be from the Fathers. I don't remember Merton's answer, but the answer would usually be it's a little like the thing of Martha and Mary, you know, that you're busy about many things, there's one thing that matters. It's somehow breaking out of the... Now, it's a mistake to make it too metaphysical. There's got to be a break of faith. There's got to be a break of relationship. There's got to be a breaking out of that which one knows to be true, and in a bond of love and fidelity, in order to do something else, okay?


But, I don't remember what Merton says about it. There's got to be something like that. But, I don't think we should get too far off on that road of trying to answer that, because it takes us off the track of his progression, of the main theological track. At this point, what he's doing here, he can abstract from that question of exactly what did they do wrong, and use the myth of Genesis 1 and 2, Genesis 2 and 3, it really is, in order to illustrate this whole contemplative picture, you know. The movement from unity and multiplicity. And then, his next section, you see, is going to be his presentation of Christ as the response to this. Precisely, the return from the multiplicity and illusion, back into the unity. And even the last section, about the sacred and the secular, is still responding to this first movement from unity to multiplicity. You notice, the section on the sacred and the secular defines the sacred in terms, somehow, of this beginning from interiority,


and therefore from unity. And the secular is precisely the enslavement to the multiple, and the dread of the unitive. So, it's the being wedded to that land of unlikeness, to that world of illusion and multiplicity out there. Now, somebody could attack this and say, well, this whole thing is a Greek, Platonist picture, because what's wrong with multiplicity? What's wrong with the diversity of creation, and so on? But, I think what Merton is doing here is valid, though. Because he's not trying to say everything. He's not trying to, what we write a whole metaphysical and theological balanced treatise. He's trying to follow his track of a reasonable theology and spirituality of contemplation, based on the scriptures and the fathers. I think he does it well. For me, that line, starting about four down from Sedona to


Gustavon, that's very scary and very different from what you're doing, because it seems to link Adam and Eve in this conflictual thing where Adam, had he been allowed to be Adam, would have gone into contemplation. And Eve, or the feminine, which is the outer and the external, that's very scary in its ultimate implication. That's an illustration of that great flaw and danger that's in the fathers, even the Greek fathers were so profound, you know. That Greek intellectualist masculine bias. And anti-feminine really. Anti-feminine. So, very scary. Which gets even into the spiritual interpretation. It's not just on the outside when they're talking about equasional discipline or something like that. It's right in there. Spiritual interpretations. But... And it's very confused, because if complexity is linked to technology and science, that can be more the masculine and if the unitive and embracing... So, there seems, tucked in there, a misogynist thing that's


rather arbitrary. That's right. The other side of that is that if there was a bias like that in the beginning, that means we're left with something still to discover and to develop. The whole pie has not been eaten. Something has been left for us. The whole pie hasn't even been cut. So, there's still something left to emerge in our time. And which has to do with this side. It's just like Jungian psychology, with the side that's been neglected, that's been repressed, that's been denied, and which we would call the inferior function or something like that. That's where the new creation is coming from. So, it means turning over a lot of things. And it means a new direct contact with the scripture, and trying to get to the heart of it freshly, so that it speaks to you directly. Because even the Fathers are not a reliable enough guide here. These things will jump right out at you. They glare at you when you read them. And even in the years


since Merton, of course, there's been quite a bit of development in that, hasn't there? Merton wouldn't even use quite the language he uses if he were writing today. Even the focus on contemplation, the focus on a center, on a concept, and a notion, and an idea, and an ideal of contemplation has an enormous shadow to it. It means that we're excluding, that's a masculine bias in a sense, that focused, purposeful concentration on something. Is that where the New Testament is at? No. Somehow, it's got to be complemented by another... That's why I think the movement from a focus on contemplation to a focus on wisdom is very useful. Especially if you take wisdom from the feminine aspect. From the Sophia angle. Then it's not an isolated center, as it were. Which is the unitive, contemplative experience, and everything else sort of left out in the cold. But it's something which permeates everything, and in which everything participates, and which brings everything together in a very mysterious,


almost musical way. A musical way. But we'll get into that for a second. It's as if you were copying all kinds of different things. That's right. And you see, there's a lot of that in Merton. I mean, in the last years of his life, he's moving towards that in a beautiful way. Just read that Hagia Sophia. And some of the things that he writes in Conjectures of a Guilty Wiseman are just marvelous in that Sophianic sense. He starts the whole book talking about Barth's dream of Mozart, remember? And he talks about the Sophianic Mozart that will be the salvation of Barth, rather than the theologian in his head. So when Merton is writing from his head, as he frequently has to do, even here when he's using the Genesis story, and all the symbolism, he's not as... He doesn't sing like he does when he's allowing that Sophianic thing that's moving in him to speak, in his more poetic book. The extreme of that is in the book The Ascent to Truth, you know, that very scholastic


work on contemplation, which he didn't even like himself, and which almost killed him while he was writing. Yes? Because I think here Merton is just referring to the tradition. The great fathers of Augustine, he doesn't really take sides. No, he doesn't really take sides. To a certain extent, however, in adopting their structure, their basic theological structure, he necessarily brings along with it some of its imperfection. Some of its bias comes along. He drags along with it. Towards the end of that first paragraph, then it flows into the second. He's accepted the substance of that division. Because actually, now, the more contemporary interpretation would be just the opposite. Because according to the fathers, it's the masculine. Adam is the contemplative. Eve is the feminine. But now,


I think, normally, our understanding is just the opposite. The masculine stands for the rational, the strict, logical reasoning. And the feminine stands for the more intuitive, contemplative, ascetic aspects. Notice the aspect of this in ecclesiology. As the church becomes freed up from that other perspective, it discovers itself. It discovers itself as feminine. It discovers itself, in a sense, as wisdom. And of course, the equating of theology with science, rather than with scientia, rather than sapientia, has a lot to do with this, of course. Not in the patristic time, but since the 13th century or so. Great acquisitions, but also this shadow. The Jungian parallel to that is the idea of the anima for the man


as the door, actually. The feminine as the door to interiority for a male. The second part here is called Contemplation and Theology. Now, here we have a chiasm with the first part. Because we had the fall from unity into multiplicity, and the ejection, the eviction from this unitive center. And now Jesus is the one who comes to bring us back. But how does he do that? And here is the strength of it. Merton is very good at this. The strength of Christian theology is that the incarnation is deification. That Jesus became man, became a human being, so that we might become God. That's our usual statement of it, from the fatherhood, from Irenaeus or Athanasius, probably both.


That's a kind of, what would you call it, logical statement of it. But in this event, that unitive divinity becomes human, so that we might enter into that unity, and so that a unitive humanity might be born. But this unitive humanity is not just unitive, it's divine. So it's not just Adam, but it's Adam deified in some way. But see, the whole spring of Christianity, the whole dynamism of the Gospels, in a sense, is right here. In this removal of all barriers, that which mediates, which is Jesus, is not a mediator between one thing and another, but a mediator who makes two things one in himself, if we can speak of God in that sense. Does this propose anything that the Eastern Fathers said about


even if Adam and Eve hadn't fallen, Christ would have come anyway to complete something that needed to be completed? Probably, yes. If Adam is being deified, is he being returned to his original state in the Garden of Eden before the fall, or is he being taken beyond something that he was before the fall? Yeah, he has to be taken beyond. He has to be taken beyond. So that would sound like Christ would have been necessary. Well, yeah, I think Scotus takes a line something like that, but I don't remember whether he uses it, whether that's part of his argument, you know. An African-Syrian... Yeah, I don't remember finding the quote. Yeah, the recapitulation is in Irenaeus, of course, and that's what we're talking about in the sense that the unitive beginning comes into the world and brings everything else back to the beginning in itself, by coming into it, by entering into it. It opens itself and receives everything into it to come back into the beginning. It's a wonderfully powerful idea, especially when you realize that the beginning is


this unitive source, you know, this fullness, this divine creative fullness. There's no end to that idea. It's not just an idea. And that's at the core of John's prologue, you see, and then in Irenaeus.