Contemplation and Inner Experience

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

Class IV

Contemplative Prayer Set 1 of 2

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#set-contemplation-and-inner-experience

#class-series; #monastic-class-series

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So, let me explain those handouts first. One of them, the one on top, completes or continues that long series of quotes from Merton that you have. Notice that this is a new page 12 plus a page 13. So your old page 12 can be replaced or used for personal things. Okay, that's the first. The second we're going to be using today, that's that handout number 6, H6, Contemplative Experience in the New Testament. So we'll get to that today, so keep that one handy. And then the third one is a bonus. That's a wonderful little preface that was written by Merton for the Japanese translation of Thoughts in Solitude. So Thoughts in Solitude is much older. That came out when? In the early fifties sometime. But he was very interested in getting his work introduced to Japan particularly, but

[01:02]

the eastern cultures. And so he was very careful about writing this preface. So what he tries to do is take his earlier book on contemplation and introduce it from an Asian perspective and especially something like a Zen perspective. So the first line is worth the price of the book. No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind than the pine trees. That's Merton at his best. It goes along with what we've been saying of non-dual experience. It's a more or less poetic, but not only poetic, treatment of that experience. Okay, I'm going to be away next week, so our next class will be in two weeks, either Tuesday or Wednesday of that week after, June 21st or 22nd. I was thinking we'd go ahead to section four, so it'd be fine to read Merton's section

[02:04]

four of the interior experience. However, as I look at this New Testament material, I think we probably will want to spend that hour, actually of class time, further on Christian contemplation, which after all is the heart of our subject. It's very important for us to have a grip on that, to have a sense of how these two things come together, the Gospel and the contemplative experience, or contemplative tradition. So we'll probably spend the hour continuing on Christian contemplation, and especially the relationship of contemplation to baptism. There's a lot in that section three of Merton on Christian contemplation, but we'll have some other things to add to it. Okay, to review our last session a bit, we talked about the context of contemplation and tried to fill out the picture, because contemplation is a focus, it's a kind of a point, it's a narrowing down in order to talk about something.

[03:04]

But we find that life is bigger than contemplation, and yet if we conceive it well, contemplation wells up and fills out life. In other words, contemplation somehow returns to fill life. But to talk about the concept of contemplation is to narrow down to focus, with a typically Western and, in a way, masculine perspective. And then we talked about Christian contemplation, and we started reading Merton section three. Remember the first section? It's really fitted together quite beautifully, this section. The first part is on the original unity of humanity. Now, notice how he hammers and returns to that notion of the human person being a one. And he's not talking specifically here about all of humanity being a one, although he could do that, and he will do that at times. And if you're talking about Adam, then implicitly you're saying that all of humanity is one

[04:05]

in Adam. But he's talking about the individual human person, really, because he goes immediately off into the individual experience. And man, as he puts it, being originally a unity, and then in the fall somehow being ejected into multiplicity. And then, this is a classical patristic picture, and of course we critiqued it, we criticized it, because it's not quite adequate to us. And yet it's beautiful, and we can't renounce it, but we have to fill it out, we have to complete it, balance it in some way. And then in the next section, he talks about, he calls it, I think, theology and contemplation. The titles, I don't think these titles were put in by Merton, they were probably put in by Brother Patrick Hart. So they don't necessarily coincide with exactly the point that Merton is getting at in each section. But there we see, he beautifully builds upon the notion of the loss of the original unity.

[05:07]

Now, remember, for him, unity is practically equivalent to contemplation. In other words, a contemplative experience is an experience of the unity of your being, and it's the true self. You can put equation marks between those three expressions. Contemplation, unity of the person, of the being, and true self, or inner self. Now, in this next section, Merton makes another equal sign there, as it were, and he would say that these are all equivalent for us to the new person, the new man, or the Christ self. And then he explains how this works in that section labeled Theology and Contemplation. It works by the incarnation and deification, which are like two perspectives of the same reality. As the father said, that God became man so that man might become God. He's still limping on our sexist language. But the downward movement, if we project it geometrically, and the upward movement, which

[06:11]

are really in some way the same thing. And yet, first comes the downward movement, and then our response is an attempt to realize the upward movement afterwards, but only because the downward movement has come. Deification is only possible because of incarnation, and yet incarnation is already deification in Jesus, and virtually in some way in us. But that's realized then through baptism. And Merton doesn't talk much about baptism. He'll return to it, but for him, baptism has not opened up as a fullness, but only a first step. He speaks about the seeds of this contemplative, reunitive experience being planted in baptism. But he doesn't talk about the baptismal experience itself, and that was a very big issue in early Christianity. So, we'll need to return to that. Yes? All right. That was just a physical phenomenon. Okay, then he gets to that other section which is labeled Gospels and Contemplation, or something

[07:14]

like that. Contemplation and the Gospels. Now, that title isn't perfect, I think. The relationship between the second part... We've called it the second part, which is the Contemplation and Theology. And Contemplation and the Gospels is nearly the relationship between word and spirit. In other words, there's nearly a Trinitarian progression in these first three sections. In the first one, Merton is talking about the way we're made and then the way we fell from it. And that's, as it were, analogous to the Father, the Creator, and to being, and Father as being, God as being. Okay? And God as the Great One, the Great Unity. In the second section, Theology, it's a question of the Son, of the second person, how the second person comes to restore the original unity. But, of course, when we say restore, we never mean really just that, do we? Because the deification goes far beyond the original unity. The human person, humanity, was made for this deification, which is a further step. But the fall, in some way, if you look at it from a Scotus perspective, complicates

[08:15]

it and necessitates the cross. But in any case, it's the first person and first movement, as it were, first reality there, the unitive reality, and the restoration in the second person. But in that third section, which is called Contemplation of the Gospels, he's really moving on to the work of the Holy Spirit. And Father Joseph, just at the end of the class, asked that question about the Holy Spirit and contemplation, which I didn't respond too well. And I've thought a lot about it since, and it opens up so many things. And I hadn't really read Merton's section there carefully enough before replying either. I didn't do justice to it. Because he very nicely shows how the Holy Spirit is somehow the agent of contemplation, almost in some way the reality, the substance of contemplation. So on one side you've got a kind of equation between... We have to be careful with our equations, we can get, what do you call it, over-faciled with them. But there's almost an equation between contemplation and the Holy Spirit. Notice as you move from the second section, Theology, to the next section, what he calls

[09:22]

the Gospels, they're the title, you're really moving from the theological reality, or the objective reality, to the actualization of that reality in ourselves. And that's the Condemnative Experience. So that's equivalent to the movement from, let's say, the second order, the second order of truth, to the third order of the Holy Spirit, which is very difficult to talk about. Because all the words tend to melt on you. And because simply it goes beyond language, it goes beyond theology. It's the difference between theology, as we know theology, in the modern Western Church, and the theology of Evagrius, Theoria, which was actually the Condemnative Experience, it was the experience of the Holy Spirit. So it's a movement from theology to theology, from the, as it were, flat, objective, conceptual theology which has tended to prevail in modern times in the Church, and the original meaning of theology for the Fathers, which was the fire of the experience of fullness in the

[10:23]

Holy Spirit. So as we move into this new section of Merton, he quotes a number of things from the Gospels, which tend to be largely on this reality, this third order, as it were, of the Holy Spirit, which is actualization. So the logical progression here is from theology as a vision of incarnation and deification, to this other order which is actualization, in the individual, of course. In the individual, that is, in you and me, in us. That's the work and experience of the Holy Spirit. So there are two sides to what Merton is saying here. On one side, the experience of the Holy Spirit is practically identical with contemplation. A couple of quotes from Merton. These are pages, our page numbers are 30, 34, about the middle of 34, where he starts talking about the gift of the Divine Spirit, which is the deifying spirit.

[11:27]

You see how difficult it is to separate these things, to talk about them. The gift of the Holy Spirit is exactly what deifies. Before Pentecost, before the gift of the Holy Spirit, there can be no deification. There can be no, what would you call it, multiplication of the incarnation in other people, in us. And that gift of the Divine Spirit is baptismal, too, as he says over there in the middle of 33. Okay, he goes from there, it goes to 38, to the end of that section, his treatment of the Holy Spirit and contemplation. A couple of quotes. This testimony of the Spirit, this is at the bottom of 34, to our inmost self, he's just quoted Romans, our own spirit, is in a very broad sense what we call contemplation in the Christian context. So there, the experience of the Holy Spirit, or testimony of the Holy Spirit, as Paul has it in Romans, and contemplation are practically identical.

[12:29]

And then later, on 37, up at the top, he says, the life of contemplation is then not simply a life of human technique and discipline, it is the life of the Holy Spirit in our inmost souls. There's a continuity between the two, and the continuity is what? I think it's that non-dual or interior, unitive experience, that for Merton is both contemplation and the experience of the Holy Spirit. But deeper than that is the reality of the new self, of the new unitive self, which is the basis or the core or the substance of contemplation, which is given in the Holy Spirit. So there's a very deep bond between contemplation and the Holy Spirit for Merton. On the other hand, there's obviously a difference between contemplation and the Holy Spirit. And here it's a question partly of vocabulary and where these expressions come from. Contemplation is a Greek notion. Our contemplatio is a Latin word, but the Greek background is theoria, of course, which has its whole cultural context, and Merton has already commented on that

[13:35]

in a little, slightly ironic, sarcastic way, remember, at the end of the previous section, where it was kind of an elitist thing, you know. I've got a few points on this difference. Let me just shoot them out. First of all, the experience of the Holy Spirit can be considered from Merton's perspective a Christian translation of the word contemplation, as long as we're talking about contemplation. You've got to translate into Christian terms, because you don't find the word contemplation in the New Testament. So talk about the experience of the Holy Spirit. But when you do that, it's more than a translation, because you're moving to a larger reality. Contemplation is something like an abstract slice of the experience of the Holy Spirit, or a diminished version. Contemplation, actually, is a little bit parallel. The idea of the experience of contemplation is a little parallel to the prophecies and types that you have in the Old Testament. But coming this time, not from the Jewish, but from the Greek or Universal side of human wisdom.

[14:36]

Those things, in some way, foreshadow the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit. But they're not equal to it. The Holy Spirit moves from the second order, cognitive and dualistic language, in which the language of contemplation is at home, and that's a Greek language, you know, to a third order, which is, first of all, non-dualistic, non-objective, holistic, in a much fuller way than contemplation is. Secondly, it's affective, it's inseparable from love. Thirdly, it's personal and transpersonal at the same time. The Holy Spirit is a personal gift. It's a gift, a personal gift of the personal God, through the person of Jesus Christ, at the heart of our own person, which brings our own person alive, and sort of, almost, what would you say, not inflates it, but brings it to its full dimensions in some way. And yet, at the same time, it's transpersonal.

[15:38]

You could almost say, at some point, impersonal. The contemplative experience, as Merton often talks about, is an experience in emptiness. It's a kind of a metaphysical experience, an experience of being. So, it moves between the personal and the metapersonal, the transpersonal, in some way. The cosmic is one aspect of that, the presence of the Holy Spirit in all things. Are these in the notes? No, no. You haven't taken that? No, I didn't put it in there. Fourthly, it's related immediately to a communal reality. And this is emphatically not true of the antique notion of contemplation. Both in the Greek tradition, and also in the, for instance, the Desert Fathers, or the early contemplative writers in Christianity, usually talking about an interior experience of the individual person, quite abstracting from a communal reality. And this is true also in St. John of the Cross, right? There's hardly a breath about community in St. John of the Cross.

[16:39]

And the Church does not enter as community. It enters in a different way in John of the Cross. Fifthly, it's related immediately to the historical context in movement, or to a historical context in movement. The Holy Spirit is a breath not only in the individual person, in the core of the heart of the individual, but is a breath in the whole world, a wind moving in the whole world. It gives the whole of history a push. It gets inside history and somehow, what would you say, fills history and moves it. And sixthly, and this has been in a couple of the ones above, it's essentially dynamic. The tendency of contemplation often, that notion, is to be considered as static and purely transtemporal, kind of moving out of the immutability of things. That Neoplatonic tradition in Christianity is especially that way. Read St. Augustine, for instance. Whereas the Holy Spirit is essentially somehow a dynamism, it's essentially a flame, it moves things. And it is at the heart somehow of history,

[17:42]

of sacred history, but even of the world history. So those two expressions of... That's the end of that list, but those two expressions of contemplation first and then Holy Spirit are just at home in two completely different worlds, cultural worlds. A Greek or universal sapiential world, if you like, if you include, let us say, the Asian traditions. For instance, the Zen tradition, which would accept, I think, the deepest Western notion of contemplation as being very closely related, if not identical, with its own experience. Take, for instance, Eckhart and Zen, Suzuki writing about Eckhart and Zen. And a biblical world, the world of the new intrusion of God's Word and Spirit into this world. So there's simply a whole dynamic, a whole context of act, of movement, of recreation, of whatever you want to call it, transformation, it's intensely dynamic. The Holy Spirit is dynamism in some way.

[18:44]

The New Testament is conveying to us an event which embraces all of reality, all of creation, and somehow takes it into the divine act of being, but in so moves it, pushes it directionally in some way. Cosmos and history. Here are a few perspectives on this relation of Holy Spirit to contemplative experience. Just a few angles, so you can see how hard it is to talk about it in one way, or following one track, to put it into one picture, one vision. First of all, Holy Spirit as the agent, or the energy of contemplation. And none of these words do justice to it. The Holy Spirit is the very subtle medium of contemplation, so that somehow the gift of the Holy Spirit, or the awakening of the Holy Spirit, or the emergence of the Holy Spirit within you, is identical with this non-dual experience, which we're talking about as contemplation. But the place, the role of the Holy Spirit in this is so subtle, and so pervasive.

[19:48]

Cos the Holy Spirit is not a part. We're so used to talking about parts. It's not a part. It somehow influences the whole, and there we go beyond our language. We don't have a language for talking about wholes, about totality. Secondly, you can look at it, the Holy Spirit as the unitive core of the Gospels, and in that way, as the substance of contemplation. So when you get through the letter of the Word, the outside of the Word, you get to the heart of it, that's the Holy Spirit. You've got to that. You've got to this unitive reality of God, which is communicable, which is what the Word is trying to say. The Word that is spoken to us contains within it something which, in a way, goes beyond word. Think of the Word as something which is spoken, which is heard, which is seen, which is read, which has a surface, which has a kernel, which is perceived, and contains within it something which is not perceived in the same way, not perceived with the senses, but which moves to your interior,

[20:50]

speaks to your interior, which implants itself in your interior, and lives there. Think of the Holy Spirit in that way. That's just one image. These are all images which are inadequate. And if you think of it that way, then you can also think of it as the divine feminine. If you think of the external part, the Word as we know Word, and words as being masculine, think of the interior, the core, as being the feminine, purely unitive divine reality, which has no outside, which is only pure union, pure unity, a pure non-dual reality, and therefore which has to have a container, which has in some way to be hidden, which has to be mystery in some way in this world. Now, one more way of thinking of the Holy Spirit is not as the center of the core, or the filling, as it were, of the Word, but as the aura, or the field of the Word, around the Word. Remember that particle wave alternative

[21:55]

we talked about before. You can think of, say, body as particle and soul or spirit as wave, or better, as field. So if you think of the words, the letter of the scriptures, the physicality, the particularity of the Word, as particle, now think of the Holy Spirit as field. The spirit of the Word, something like that. The expression field is very useful there, because also the notion of freedom in a field, even in a field, like they talk about a quantum field as being a field of possibility, you know, as a marvelous analogy to the Holy Spirit, a field of creative possibility, a field of as yet unparticularized creativity. That's just one more, because there are a lot of different ways you can think about the Holy Spirit, obviously, in relationship to contemplation and to the Word.

[22:58]

You can think of it, for instance, in relationship to the moment as that point, that penetrating point of the divine reality, or of our own innermost reality. Yes? John of the Cross does that thing about when contemplation really becomes a flame, it's experienced, we use language of love, he says that is the spirit, this is the flame of love. That's right. That's quite an equation you can bring together in a kind of spousal mysticism. It's a unitive love frame at that moment, too. That is, it goes beyond language in the sense of being the very flame of oneness, where as if the two flames were to become one, the flame of our own spirit and the flame of the divine spirit. That's the point where he strains language the most, I guess, is in that living flame of love. Remember, also, he's got a Trinitarian series of images there, that the Father, as I remember, is the touch. These kind of very deep and subtle interior direct experiences

[24:03]

of the three persons, as he told them, the Father is the touch, the Son, I believe, is the whisper, and the spirit is the flame. I don't remember which of his works he does that in. John Frost also compares the spirit to breathing. Yes, exactly. The awakening of the words, and then the breath. Exactly, yes. Exactly. I wrote a bunch of notes, Father Joseph, on this subject, if you're interested in them. But I'll try to distill the whole thing in this way. You can... Three perspectives on this relationship of contemplation and the Holy Spirit. First of all, the Holy Spirit, let us say, is identical with contemplation. That is, contemplation as being simply the experience of the Holy Spirit as a starting point. But then, the Holy Spirit being a breath, being a respiration, as it were, has two movements. One movement is the inhalation.

[25:05]

One movement is the drawing inward, the movement of interiorization. And that's typical of the monastic tradition. And that moves towards the center. In other words, it's drawn towards the Father, or towards the center of our own being. And it's as if you've got two axes that come from that center. And one is the axis, let us say, of the word, or of understanding, of knowledge, of light. And the other is the axis of the Spirit, or of affectivity, of love, of feeling, of the... The image there might be flame instead of light. But as you move towards the center, the two become one somehow. The two tend to coalesce, so what you get is a kind of a wisdom which is loving knowledge, or knowing love. Remember that quote, amor ipse est noctitia, where love itself is knowledge, and knowledge itself is love, because the knowledge which is wisdom is a unitive knowledge,

[26:07]

which is not only love in our sense of between, but love as simple delight, love as simple resting in some kind of unitive relationship with the beloved. And there we're slipping all the time back into subject-object knowledge, but it's not that, you see. It's beyond that. Now that's the inward movement, and that's the typically monastic movement. The inhalation, let us say. And that's the experience of identity that Merton is talking about, the experience of the core, which I would call a baptismal experience. But there's another direction in the Holy Spirit too, isn't there, in this respiration of the Holy Spirit. And then it says, if you read the Acts of the Apostles, what do you get? You get something completely different. You get an explosion of energy moving outward, and Luke is very geographical about it. It's moving outward from a center, from Jerusalem. This explosion of the Holy Spirit moving out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, which drives not inward, but outward. And Luke's interest in Acts is to document, as it were,

[27:09]

that outward movement, that explosion, expansion of the Holy Spirit. So it's moving towards something else. And what's it moving towards? It's moving towards a global fullness somehow, a global transformation of something. And once again, pardon if I call this eucharistic, but I think that's where it's going. The outward movement, which is... The inward movement is like light. It's like the light at the center. It's like the morning light in some way. The pure light of non-dual experience at the center, which is typical, in a sense, of the Asian traditions as well, okay, of the East. It's the Eastern experience. But this other movement, this movement outwards, which is like flame, is flame, fire, transforming energy, which is gradually changing the world, turning the world into something, okay. And it does it through human beings, of course. But it also works even in other ways. I mean, even science, you know,

[28:10]

and technology, or in some way, products, they can be wild, strange, defective products, distorted products sometimes. But that's products, too, of this transforming energy, which moves outward in the world until it's changed the whole thing. And that I would call not baptismal, but Eucharistic. And it's typical, not of the monastic tradition at all, but of other parts of the Church. I'm reminded, especially today, of the Charismatic Movement, not because the Charismatic Movement is always a very good analogy here, but neither is the monastic tradition, but it does oppose itself quite, what would you say, diametrically, in a sense, to the monastic thing. Because there you have two different experiences of the Holy Spirit. One towards interiority, and the other tending to move outwards. Also, even in the visible thing, you get a bunch of people in a room and they start singing in tongues and all of that wild stuff. All the external expressions by which it tends to move

[29:12]

in that outward direction of the acts of the apostles. Even the phenomena, the outward phenomena of the New Testament. But, as I say, I don't want to stretch that comparison too far, because we want to talk about the transforming dimension of this outward movement. There is an amazing figure like Ronald who is filled with the Spirit, who goes into solitude, who also goes busting out and wants to go all the way to Poland. That's right, that's right. Our early tradition seems to have something, also the Celtic tradition, which is to go all to the ends to evangelize and remain in tongue. So, maybe the opposition has a whole list in there. No, I don't think the opposition... You're right that the monastic tradition itself, when it's really on fire, when it's really alive, tends to move in both of those directions. I think whenever Christianity is experienced or re-emerges in its full intensity, whether it be within monasticism, it will push the boundaries of monasticism out until it includes the other movements somehow, as it does with Romeo.

[30:12]

And the fact of martyrdom is very important because I think that's very much a part of this outward movement. The outward movement drives towards a kind of consuming of the individual into the whole. So, when they were eager to go to Poland or Prussia, wherever it was, to be martyred, they're just like Ignatius who wanted to be ground by the teeth of the beast, remember, to become the bread of Christ. But the bread of Christ was for the others. The bread of Christ is for humanity, it's for the world. That's why I call it Eucharistic. But that's the other dimension. And when the Spirit doesn't allow us to stay in one pocket, if we've got a conception of contemplation and the Spirit really comes alive in us, it's going to break down that conception and it's really going to cross also institutional boundaries. That is, oh, a monk shouldn't do that. A monk is going to do it at a certain point if the Spirit is alive in him. So the origins of these things are often very much bigger than the institutionalized versions

[31:13]

afterwards, you know, down through the centuries. The institution tends to specialize, at least in the Roman Catholic tradition, it specializes in such things in concrete. But when the Spirit really comes alive, it moves across those boundaries and breaks down the concrete walls. Yes, so on a thing like that I'd say that the monastic tradition identifies with one dimension and then at certain times flames out in the other dimension. And this is true also in the apostolic life. You read the lives of... Even the life of St. Paul, you know, because St. Paul is like an embodiment of this outward movement, like this outward flame of dynamism of the Holy Spirit. And yet read him talking about his interior experience, you know. When he says in 1 Corinthians and the light of God, we've seen what the light has said, the goddess has let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts. The glory of God in the face of Christ, this central experience, this baptismal experience, when he relates that,

[32:15]

it goes all the way to that end. And he says it like nobody else ever says it. Just because of the intensity of the Spirit drives him in both directions. But his vocation drives him outward. His mission, let us say. So there's a mutuality between those two directions. Okay. Any questions at that point? Yes. Did I catch you saying that contemplation is only one abstract slice of the experience of the Holy Spirit? That was an... Did I catch you right? Yeah, it's an imperfect statement, okay? That's an abstract statement. But what I mean is the word contemplation is an abstraction. It comes out of an abstract vocabulary, okay? And it refers to a certain experience, which in itself may be incomplete in comparison with the experience of the Spirit that we're talking about. But the word itself

[33:18]

is even more incomplete because it suggests the kind of subject-object thing. See, contemplation suggests, the word suggests, looking at something. Is there also the parallel of thinking of contemplation as the fullness of the gift of the Spirit because it is that end of experience? And then, like you said, God just busts out from there. Yeah, yeah. It all flows from that contemplative experience. Moving in one direction is the fullness of the experience, right? Moving in the direction which Merton is particularly concerned with here, it's the fullness of the experience of the Spirit because it's been allowed to develop interiorly to its fully unitive reality, okay? It's experienced in its deepest unitive reality, which, you know, doesn't seem to happen nearly as much as it should. From another point of view, the word contemplation is only expressing a part of what is happening. Now, at that moment,

[34:19]

it may express nearly the whole thing, let us say, but at another moment it's only expressing part of what is happening. First of all, because the reality spreads everywhere beneath the surface of life, this unitive reality, and, you know, is experienced in all kinds of different ways. But secondly, because it tends to give preference to this inner thing and shortchange the outward dynamism, okay? The more Eucharistic dimension in which the Holy Spirit is equally experienced. So, see, it's a human word. It's a cultural term which necessarily is limited. But is it Merit's perspective that if you were to experience the fullness of, you know, the experience of contemplation, then all those wishes of the Holy Spirit would grow out of that of their own, just because of the nature of the experience? Yes. It seems to be largely, although he might be skeptical about a statement like that in his later years. I mean, later on he talks about

[35:20]

the act of contemplation in the past, the contemplation. Yes. But that isn't the funny turnaround that if you were to really experience passive contemplation it might just lead you into an active life again. Yes, I think so. That's right. The beauty of the language of contemplation is that it's so clear and focused, okay? And we, in a sense, we point right towards what we want to talk about. And it's very useful for that reason, for renewing the focus in monasticism, okay? That word contemplation which is so much embattled in our time, is an essential word almost. We don't have another one like it for getting monasticism back on its original track, back on the right track, in a sense, towards its center, towards its core. And yet, at the same time, it itself, just because of the limitation of a word, leaves out a lot and can lead a person into a kind of reduced form of Christian life. In other words, an obsession with contemplation

[36:21]

or the contemplative experience can make a person deaf to the Holy Spirit. Okay, so we had that... I'd like to talk about contemplation in the New Testament a little more. We had that paradox that contemplation is not used explicitly, that term in the New Testament, but yet Martin says the New Testament is full of contemplation, and I believe that he's right. So we had this further thesis that the core of the biblical word, in particular the New Testament, is the unitive divine reality, the One. I repeated that just a few minutes ago. So that this unitive is communicable in word and in spirit, and it's the very substance of contemplative experience. So that the New Testament is like a vehicle or a container for unitive experience, a container for the unitive reality. It's just an image. And so when it delivers

[37:23]

its message, it delivers its package, as it were. What it's delivering is this unitive reality. Now, it's not just a contemplative experience. It's a unitive transformation whereby you become a new being. But this new being contrasts with the old being by its unitive character, the fact that it rings as a bell, that it's this One. It's One in the One which is God, and it's One somehow with everything else as well. It's like a new intensity of oneness in the world which is able somehow to gather other things into unity around it. So this communicable unitive reality of God, which we call the Holy Spirit in its communicable form, it's communication. And as Merton says, that's a question, an issue for us of identity, that this is the source,

[38:25]

this gift is the source and the event of our new being, our new identity. It's important to put it in the context of old and new, I think. Sometimes Merton will be talking in that context just of true self and false self, but we found when we used that that it didn't quite do it, that we need to translate sooner or later into the language of old and new, as he's doing here. He's also got a book called The New Man in which he gives a lot of attention to that. We have to get it sooner or later back into a biblical perspective. And then that communication of the divine unitive being is in a direct line with that... Remember all those I am expressions in John's Gospel and that fundamental revelation of the divine name to Moses back at the burning bush in Exodus 3, where God's name is revealed as I am. Now, the biblical commentators will translate that in all different ways, but you can't get away from it that at the heart of it is this kind of, how would you call it, this bullseye direction

[39:28]

right to the heart, the core of our own being, the core of our own identity. Owen Barfield's got a marvelous passage on that where he talks about the participation, human participation, in nature and everything being all systematically eliminated in the Old Testament until the only participation there is is through the recitation of the divine name, through the speaking of the divine name I am, which you cannot say without a participation in God. To say the divine name, somehow, I am, is to identify yourself with the divine being. That's the way he puts it, which I think it may be overstated, but it's marvelous, marvelously strong. And then think about it in connection with that image of the burning bush from which the name is spoken. Now, this is the contemplation-identity relation which Merton proposed to us at the beginning of his book, The Inner Experience. And why is contemplation

[40:32]

not discussed in the New Testament? Well, sometimes it is, only under another term, like the knowledge of God, or to see in John's Gospel, to see Jesus. And often you're moving between faith and contemplation there, and often you can't distinguish them at a certain point. Faith is like dark contemplation and contemplation, or knowledge, is like light faith. They're one continuum, one thing. The opening of the eyes of the heart in Ephesians, remember, I think Merton quotes that one here. Knowledge of the mystery in Paul, where he says, the knowledge of the mystery has been given to us. Notice that often, this is not simply the non-dual knowledge we're talking about, a non-dual experience, but there's usually a kind of objective content here, the knowledge of the mystery and so on. And yet that's all soaked with this unitive knowledge. And they're almost indistinguishable at a certain point, because the mystery that Paul is talking about, this mystery of Christ, when you read Ephesians and Colossians, is precisely the mystery of unity. And so it becomes just soaked, just permeated

[41:33]

with this unitive experience itself. Which we're calling contemplation, non-dual experience. Jesus on the cross is the very core of that, the very event, the very realization of that non-dual reality as it comes into the world anew, and puts itself into the world in a historical and transforming way. So, the content and the, what should we say, the content of the experience, that is the mystery, that the Jews and the Gentiles are both saved together, that's identical somehow with the stuff, with that fabric, with whatever it is, that substance of the unitive reality and unitive experience, which we're speaking of as contemplation. The basic way of religious knowing in the New Testament is a participative knowing, if not a unitive knowing, if not a contemplative knowing. So the New Testament, the very knowledge,

[42:33]

the very understanding, the very meeting with Jesus, for instance, in the New Testament is a contemplative encounter. Yes? Pauline scholars note the importance of the Damascus experience for Paul. Their effort was always in that, somehow in that light. This is the Christ who had been crucified and still suffers, and very much also the risen Christ. So I can see how Christ on the cross and then somehow together with that risen experience, this is somehow this unitive experience in its Christ form. I think that's all the way through, certainly through John. That's right. We're in that light of the risen Christ. That's right. And it's all a unitive light. Implicit in all of it is this knowledge that everything is pulled together in Christ. And they say that he's Lord, you know. There's also implicitly the knowledge that this particular Lord, this particular ruler is the one who reaches to the bottom and reaches out to the sides and somehow brings it all together in himself.

[43:33]

But when Paul talks about in Christ, you know, it's in Christ, in Christ, in Christ, in him, that language, that repetition. See, it's the same sense. It's instinctive. It flows with his every word, with his breath, practically. And John Main, for me, does a marvelous thing. He says that the experience of contemplation is moving into Christ's experience as Christ prays eternally as risen to the Father. So you can do all kinds of Trinitarian things so that the experience of contemplation is the experience of his Holy Spirit. But sometimes I find this very helpful, just to move into the contemplative Christ. That's right, that's right. Yeah, Merton comes very close to that in that section that we read. What was it? The theology and contemplation section where our contemplation is simply, what would you call it, an emanation of our being in Christ, you know, which then can be considered also in prayer to the Father. Or you may simply withdraw into the interior being itself, which is essentially unitive and therefore essentially contemplative. That is, your identity itself,

[44:35]

even if you're not praying, no matter what you're doing, even if you're doing nothing, your identity itself is full of that, has been, as it were, permeated with that, baptized with that. I think it also uses the new seed of contemplation, uses the image of word and answer. Yes, yes. We are spoken by God's words, spoken by God. That's right. And contemplation means we begin to answer. That's right. And then the answer is, the word itself becomes the answer. It's like something different, the unitive experience. And maybe the two German words can also have wort and antwort. That's right. The word and answer. The answer actually comes from the word itself forming the answer. Yes. That's quite subtle what he does there. He says that in the new seal. Yes, yes. Yes, yes. So faith is the basis

[45:36]

and the beginning of contemplation and whatever knowledge, they use the terms gnosis or epignosis in the New Testament, develops from faith is a contemplative knowledge. The knowledge that comes from faith is a contemplative knowledge. We have a tendency to think of it as things that we're told, things that we learn. But when those things count, they really have become your own experience. That is, they're somehow coming into you, they're coming out of you in some sense. They're coming out... It's like everybody who teaches in Christianity is a mystagogue who simply initiates the person to what he's already received in initiation, what's already inside him. Remember where John, the first letter of John, says, You receive this anointing from the Holy One, and you all know you don't need any teacher here. All the teacher can do is tell you what you've got. And that's what Paul is doing all the time, isn't he? He's saying, Remember what you've received. Wake up. You forgot what you've got. You forgot what's been done to you, what's happened to you, who you are. James says the same thing when he says, You know, the Word's like a mirror, this law of liberty, and you walk away from it

[46:36]

and you forget who you are. It's beautiful. So the notion of contemplation has a Greek philosophical bias that's somewhat abstract or at least circumscribed. It's intellectualist and maybe dualist, anti-material. That's so intrinsic to the Greek tradition to polarize spirit or intellect, noose, against matter. And see, when the Holy Spirit comes he just shoots, it's like Elijah's fire, you know, he just sweeps all the matter, the whole body right up into itself. There's no more dualism. So contemplation can be a dualistic conception of a unitive experience. And then remember Merton or the sarcasm there, that's like for the slippered upper class. Whereas the Biblical tradition is much more holistic, integral, comprehensive, synthetic, non-analytical, and it's incarnational, that is embodying, it's sacramental

[47:37]

in the wide sense. And so we find contemplation continually within something larger and less dematerialized than itself. The notion of contemplation, even the experience of contemplation outside Christianity, I think, has picked up the contemplative experience inside themselves into a larger being, a larger thing. The word contemplation is already on the way to non-participative consciousness, to non-participation, because it has this suggestion of subject-object experience in it. Whereas the essence of New Testament contemplative experience is participation. See that expression of Paul and Christo in Christ, which is almost obsessive within, and the notion of the one body also. So this leads us into the middle of the great big epistemological question of how do we know. This is the problem with contemporary biblical exegesis, that it's got an unconscious presupposition that we know

[48:39]

in a certain way, and that's the only way to know, and that knowing is basically a scientific way of knowing, basically an analytical way of knowing. And so very often it just doesn't get onto the frequency of the scripture of the New Testament. It prepares the ground, it does a lot of the preliminary work, the homework, but very often it stops there, strangely. The question of contemplation of the New Testament invites us to what we might call an intellectual conversion. That is, it turns over our consciousness, just as it does for the people who come to Jesus, like Nicodemus and Jesus. So you've got to be born again. It requires a kind of rebirth of consciousness, which is a contemplative conversion, a re-centering of our consciousness. If we start from today's mentality, especially,

[49:39]

now faith is already doing that in us, but it does it largely in the darkness. But if we want to talk about contemplation, the New Testament sort of forces us to do it in the daylight. It brings the issue out into the open where we have to talk about it. That's right. That's right. Oh, yeah. Indeed. It's the perennial problem. It comes up especially in our time with the whole enculturation thing, and with the meeting with the Asian traditions especially. The word participation is extremely useful here. And the best writer I found on it is Barfield,

[50:40]

Warren Barfield, who talks about our passing through a kind of needle's eye of non-participation, non-participative knowledge in the scientific age. And then a new participation emerging from that time, which would be a new wisdom, you know, also within Christianity. So, our understanding of terms like contemplation has to change, really, in the process of this conversion from something distinct, an experience in a distinct moment, to something more varied, multi-level, pervasive, participation, I guess. So, Merton is wrestling with that problem. And you want to keep the focus because, as I say, it's extremely important for monasticism to have a focus of pure contemplation as a kind of direction, gives a whole perspective. And yet, to realize it as a participated, permeating kind of reality, and in the Christian context,

[51:41]

part of something much bigger. We can't hold on to contemplation as some thing, that's for sure. Merton would agree with that. Now, notice that if contemplation sort of loses itself into the wholeness of our unitive self on one side, the side towards us, if you look at the New Testament, it loses itself into the whole of the New Testament experience. Okay? It happens at both ends. Contemplation is sort of in the middle, this abstract word contemplation. If we bring it into our own life, it disappears, and then it's everywhere, underneath, and manifesting itself more or less clearly and purely at different moments. If you try to find it in the New Testament, it disappears on you too, and then you find it's everywhere. But as something larger than itself, the abstract term contemplation still doesn't fill the bill. It's as if whatever Jesus touches continues to burn with the contemplative fire, that is the unitive fire.

[52:42]

No matter where he is in the Gospel, no matter what he touches, no matter where he appears or what he says, it's got that fire in it, that unitive presence and fullness. Contemplation itself as a goal is like the pearl, you know, in the Gospel. It is the most desirable objective of all, but at the same time obviously it's a kind of a siren song, a kind of ego trap, contemplation. As Merton points out frequently, especially I think in New Seeds of Contemplation. Sometimes it's useful to move around to the opposite side, therefore, when you're talking about contemplation, the underside of the question. Remember, Donald Nichol had that in, I think it was in another paper, if it's not the one that he, the lecture that he gave us. The question, it's Tolstoy's question, but, what is it by which a person lives? By what is it, by what is it, from what is it that somebody lives? I don't remember the exact words. And he's talking, of course,

[53:42]

about the poor. Why, what is it that makes life possible? That's the underside. Okay. I'll just leave it with you. And then, how does that relate to contemplation? And of course, the matter of faith is going to get in there somewhere with the relationship between the two sides of faith. That is, the dark side of faith, as it were, and the light side of faith. What is it? What is it that you live by? Now, if it's contemplation, we can, a little bit, have our feet off the ground. It's got to be something that roots itself in the ground. We've already just about consumed our time, so maybe I can ask you for next time, spend the next time finishing the same subject, or at least going further with it, to take those notes, which, the handout number

[54:43]

six, I think it is. Yeah. Those four pages of notes. And see what you can do with them, okay? First, you've got a kind of introduction in which you'll find some repetition of some things we've been saying today. That's contemplative or unitive experience in the New Testament, those four pages. First, there's a kind of a general introduction. Then, a suggestion of some places to look for this unitive or contemplative reality in the New Testament, some angles to look from. Those who were in our Mark class will recognize some of the angles here, but some of them are different. And then, the third part, C, starting on page three, is

[55:43]

just a list of exemplary places where you find these different forms, different manifestations of unitive or contemplative experience. Some of them distinctly in the knowledge of God, some of them in the baptismal experience, some of them in something like the anointing that John talks about. Some of them in the New Indwelling of the Last Supper in John. And sometimes more distinct experiences, like visions and so on. And then, we can work with this stuff next time. Nothing from Mark? Hm? Nothing from Mark? No, I didn't. I forgot about it. Nothing from the synoptics as a matter of fact. Kind of a snobbery. Except the Johanna passages in Matthew and Luke. Yeah, that's right. Matthew 11, 25 to 30, you know, where it says, Father, I thank you

[56:46]

because those should be here. Yeah. Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, Father, I thank you because you've hidden these things from the great and revealed them to the little ones. Remember? Moralist. Matthew 11, 25 to 30. And then, the equivalent in Luke, which is a little different because there he exults in the Holy Spirit and he doesn't in that. And a couple of others, at least. But see, it's implicit largely in the synoptics. It's harder to grasp. These passages, most of them, are more explicit, more obvious in some way. It's more subtle. Strangely, it's more subtle in the synoptics. But take the Transfiguration, you know, the orthodox interpretation of that. They didn't see with their eyes. They saw through their eyes. But they saw through their eyes from center to center, as it were, from the core of themselves to the core of that unit of being in Jesus, that uncreated light in Jesus. Okay.

[57:43]