Contemplation and Inner Experience

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

Class V

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, next time, I hope today we can finish our subject, our inadequate coverage of contemplation in the contemplative experience of the New Testament. Next time, go on to Merton section number four on the kinds of contemplation, okay? Section number four of the inner experience, if you could read that before next time, whether our class be on Tuesday, we hope, or on Wednesday, or whatever, next week. Okay. Yes. Next Tuesday's breakfast. Okay. Let's plan it for Wednesday. Wednesday. I think it's the semi-Sunday schedule. Oh, what is it? Is that a Sunday schedule? No, but it's our semi, you know, with the Eucharist. Okay. Well, we could start a little earlier. Yeah. We could start at 9.30 so that I give people time. So, let's plan Wednesday at 9.30 and see how it works.

[01:03]

Okay, so we dove into the ocean of the New Testament, as it were, with this idea of contemplation And we find that it's significant but it doesn't quite correspond with what we find in the New Testament. There's something else happening in the New Testament. There's dynamism, there's heat, there's a kind of expansiveness, there's a kind of convexity. There's just something bulging out in the New Testament which doesn't remain within the rather crystalline notion of contemplation that we have, like from the Greek tradition, from the classical tradition. And this is quite exciting. We made one thesis which I'd like to keep in the back of our minds while we're studying this in the New Testament, and that is that the core of the Word, and particularly of the New Testament, is the unitive divine reality that's communicated.

[02:21]

In other words, it's as if the New Testament, the Word, is the shell of this gift which is being given to humanity, which itself is what? The Holy Spirit, is divine wisdom, is the unitive divine reality itself, which becomes one with us and dwells within us. And the Word of the New Testament, the words themselves, are a kind of commentary on this, a kind of exegesis of this one great gift which Jesus came to give, which is himself, but himself as ourselves. And so the contemplative experience would be some kind of glimmer, some kind of breaking into consciousness or awakening to this unity which we have in Jesus, of Jesus, which is the very one of God. Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. And then it is expressed in love, you see. It moves from that ontological new being that we have, of a oneness which is simply one or it's more one than our own oneness in some way. These are things that don't really come into language very well.

[03:22]

But then it expresses itself in love, and you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole mind and your whole strength, and so on. So you do find prefigurations of this in the Old Testament. I think especially in the wisdom books, like the wisdom of Psalm chapter 7. Anyhow, so we're talking about penetrating into the core of the New Testament, I believe. Now, let's, first I'd like to run through that introduction you have in handout number six, and then look at a few of the texts that are listed. And I may add a couple more, but we don't have time to go through all of them. I leave that to you. And I'd recommend it as a worthwhile exercise to look at those texts in the light of the idea of contemplation. And some are more appropriate than others. But what you're finding is a kind of wild proliferation of this notion of contemplation

[04:26]

in all different directions. In the direction of knowledge, in the direction of the understanding of the mystery, in the direction of communion, koinonia, all these things, as being the various expressions of that one central reality. The central reality not being contemplation. Contemplation is just a word, which more or less corresponds to experience. But the central reality being that one reality of God as it becomes one with us, and as we awaken to it as our own new being. Okay, the general idea, handout six, part A there, is expressed in that number one. And that's what I've just been saying. So Irenaeus will say that the word that is incarnate in Jesus is the visible of the invisible, which is God. And then the father is the invisible of Jesus, and Jesus, or the word, is the visible of

[05:33]

the father. And father doesn't mean there what we usually think of when we hear the word father in Christianity. Father is the almost unnameable God. Father is the apophatically conceived reality beyond all of our names, all of our images. Remember, pseudodionysius, but that's already in the New Testament. But the father, that unnameable, unspeakable, invisible God, the mystery, as Karl Rahner calls him, and it's a wonderful revival of a name for God, rarely needed in our time, the mystery, is expressed in experience through word and through spirit. Through the word, which is the visible, through the spirit, which is the unitive communication of God. So that, and this is what Merton says there, that the spirit becomes somehow our own spirit, becomes like our own self, and is almost unnameable itself for that reason.

[06:33]

It's the divine reality as participated, known only through participation, known only as you are one with it. And what a marvelous thing that is. To know God only insofar as you are one with God. That goes a lot farther than possession. We talk about possessing the Holy Spirit, but it goes a lot deeper than possession to the point of identity. An identity which is not static, not just a thing, not just an acquisition or a state, but a participated life, a dynamism. Okay, number two, this is experienced initially in the initiation, that is in baptism. It's extremely important, and it's way behind us. In the modern Christianity, it's way out of touch with its initiation. The charismatic movement, to some extent, recovers this experience, but tends to recover it in a narrow, sometimes in a theological vacuum, sometimes in a very narrow cultural

[07:38]

setting, which leads to fundamentalism. But it is a recovery, at least partial, of the baptismal experience. So it happens first in baptism, and consequently baptism is the great illumination of photosynthesis, the explosion of the divine light, the uncreated light, experienced in the luminosity of one's own self, not as something else, but as if the sun were to rise within you as you come out of the waters. It's very important to read the baptism of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels from that perspective, and it's intended. That's why the baptism of Jesus is a kind of inauguration, a kind of overture in some of the Gospels, and implicitly in John's Gospel, in the prologue and in the first chapter of John, because that's your own experience. The Gospel is aimed right at you, it's saying, look, this is what you have. If you've been baptized, this baptism of Jesus, and everything that follows it, is simply, what would you call it, a projection in images, in a history, in a narrative, and

[08:45]

in words of that which is within you, of that which you have received. And it's Paul that talks explicitly in that language, of course, of what you have received. And then it's present in every aspect of life, but especially in some critical aspects of life, in the life of the fellowship, that is, in love, in the koinonia of the community, and in the, what would you call it, in the pinch of persecution, that is, in the witness, morturia, and also in service. And it was Father Thomas that related those words, morturia, diakonia, one time, both of which come out of the koinonia, sort of the fundamental experience of the community. And in monasticism, we sort of have these two experiences of the unitive expressed in the solitary life and the community life. The koinonia of the brethren, remember Proconius and St. Venedic follows directly in the same track. What he's interested in is this koinonia, this communion of love, which has been given.

[09:51]

And then we have the contemplative experience in the depths of the personal being, which is represented by solitude, represented by the hermit life. So the Kamalwiks have the advantage of bringing both of those together. And doing that between them, generating sort of what we call the unrest and the tension to drive us back to the source to find out what the real beginning is, and what the totality is. Now, we don't speak much here of the moment of contemplation. The New Testament doesn't very much, because that's not what's important. What's important is not so much the particular circumscribed experience, the peak experience. What's important is the change, the ontological change, is the new being and the new life that flows from it. What's important is not the moment when you experience it. What's important is that reality which is beneath the skin of your whole life, which is pulsing and shining and burning beneath the surface of all of our life, and trying

[10:57]

to express itself in our own behavior, in our own relationships. That's what's important. And so that's what the New Testament is. So, it's not like you have a gold mine here or there, or an oil well here or there. The whole earth is full of gold. The whole earth is full of oil. So it's the change. It's the new being. And baptism represents that. But there are those peak moments. And you find them, for instance, expressed by St. Paul where he says, I remember I was carried to the third heaven and heard words which cannot be uttered. But notice that a lot of the other experience which we might consider particular experience, you know, visions and revelations and things like that in the New Testament, they seem to be something else. But I'm willing to bet that all of those experiences are accompanied by what we're talking about as unitive experience. In other words, the mark of the touch of God, the mark of the epiphany, of the appearance or presence or coming or advent of God, is that unitive experience where the center

[12:02]

of your being is touched. And so every one of those experiences, no matter if they're expressed in very dramatic terms, you know, that the angel comes or something like that, or being carried to the third heaven or hearing words or seeing something as all through Revelation, the book of Revelation, all of those are implicitly accompanied by the kind of experience we're talking about, the unitive experience. That is the opening and awakening and activation and kindling of the center of your being, the unitive self. The number five there, the contemplative thing becomes presupposed after a while. It's as if the pool has been filled and you're just fish swimming around in this pool. You don't talk about the water anymore. You talk about something else. The water becomes presupposed. The light becomes presupposed and you talk about what you see in the light. Your vision is presupposed. We don't talk about our vision unless we've got a problem with it. What we talk about is what we see.

[13:03]

We don't talk so much about the light. We don't comment usually on the quality of the light unless we have an aesthetic inclination or a particular experience of light, a change of light, let us say. The constant light in which we see, the constant light in which we understand, in which we live, that's not an object of attention usually. And consequently, the New Testament is so loaded with this contemplative experience that it just disappears. It becomes the normal medium of the Christian life. It becomes the water in which the new person swims and lives. Okay, now where to look in the New Testament for this expression of this contemplative experience? First of all, baptism. And we keep returning to that because I think it's very important for us. It's the key to understanding in the first place where this contemplation is in the baptism.

[14:04]

You find it's everywhere, but the door into that realization is the understanding of what baptism was for the early Christian community. It was moving from darkness into light, simply that. And a light they couldn't even describe. Simply the light comes on. What do you say when the light comes on? How do you describe that? When the blind man in John's Gospel says, I was blind and now I see, what more can he say? What can he say about that? What can you say about light after all? Light is... And especially when you get to the intellectual light or the spiritual light, the divine light, the uncreated light, what can you say about that? You can only talk about the things you see in that light. Light itself is beyond our divided language. It's beyond the multiplicity of words. So it's only silence somehow. The silence of entering into the light. And then the light itself has its own kind of speech. Secondly, the koinonia. That word koinonia is very, very important. And that's, you know, this whole issue of what's the church, this issue of the models

[15:10]

of the church, our idea of the church, opened up after Vatican II. And the center of gravity, the basic model changes from the institution, the kind of perfect society with a perfect institutional structure, changes from that to the koinonia. The koinonia, which is not only the gift of God, but is God's own self in some way, God's own life poured out to be the, what would you call it, the medium, to be the common possession of his people. And the love which is its expression, and which in some way is identical with it, but I'd like to make a little distinction there, because the gift is not only the gift of God's love, but it's somehow substantial. It's somehow the gift of God's being. That's what the koinonia is. And the love which we express one to another is an expression of that, is a kind of, what would you call it, incarnation of that, something like that. It's like, at some point they talk about, remember in the theology of the sacraments

[16:14]

they talk about the res at, what is it, res at sacrament, and it gets too complicated, but what I mean is on one level you've got the grace, and on the other level you've got the expression which is love. So when I talk about the koinonia I'm talking about this basic level, this deeper, primordial level of the grace which is given, which then expresses itself, let us say, in acts or manifestations of love. But it's a unitive new being which is given, which is not, it's deeply personal. Q. Could that be a way of saying that love, agape, is not just a kind of second moment or second level, but the deepest level? A. Yes, yes. Q. Is this very unitive sharing, the very being of God, this love? A. When John says that God is love, that's what he means. So I don't want to keep the word love up on that upper level, but it goes all the way down. So I can't say that koinonia is deeper than love.

[17:14]

They both go to the bottom. They're identical and just different, what would you call them, nuances of expression. The third place is the knowledge of God, the knowledge of Christ, or of the mystery, the Christ mystery, that in the language of Paul. Now, when you find that talked about, it presupposes and carries with it the sense of a contemplative knowledge, of a unitive knowledge. That's not explicit very often, and yet the mystery itself, you see, is the mystery of unity. When Paul talks about that mystery, he talks about the Jews and the Gentiles being brought together, which is a kind of algebra for the whole of creation being brought together in Jesus on the cross, in the resurrection of Jesus. So, what you're looking at, the object, the mystery itself is unitive, but your experience of it, in so far as you know it in Paul's terms, is a participation in that mystery,

[18:19]

it's a knowledge of that mystery, which is a unitive experience, and which, as I said, is accompanied by some kind of unitive grace. I think you can presume that, wherever these things are being talked about. Number four, participation or unitive relationship in Christ, in the one body. Yes? When you say that the mystery itself is unitive, do you mean that the idea of mystery itself includes the whole creation? I'm thinking more of the Christ mystery at this point, because we can talk about mystery on different levels, and maybe the deepest level would simply be the divine mystery, God as mystery. But that's not what I mean here. What I mean here is Paul's ton mysterion, Paul's mystery of Christ. Yes, but when he says the mystery of Christ, that's precisely the summing up of all things under Christ. And in Christ. And in Christ. Yes. So we are included. That's right, exactly. We are part of the mystery.

[19:20]

That's right. And usually he talks about it in terms of Jews and Gentiles. In other words, he lays it out along the historical line, that first salvation was confined to the Jews. Now it's open to the Gentiles. Actually, pardon me, because this is the anime. Here it comes again. If you've got the Jews over here, and the Gentiles over here, and God up here, and creation down here. Now notice that this all overlaps. Jews and Gentiles are part of creation. It doesn't matter. I think this is the picture that's important. Mine, it seems to me. The bringing of the Jews and the Gentiles together means the near and the far. It means the first people that God takes to be his own, and then everybody. The Gentiles, all of humanity, and implicitly for the whole cosmos. So it moves from the center. You can put Jesus here, and all of humanity too, in some way. Doing it another way.

[20:22]

And here you've got God, and here you've got creation. Everything is brought together. Heaven and earth, Jews and Gentiles, all pulled together by Jesus, and in Jesus, on the cross. It's not only the death of Jesus, it's death and resurrection altogether. That seems to be sort of what you call the paradigm of the mystery, the Christ mystery in Paul's mind. At least, let's say, in the Pauline mind of Ephesians and Colossians. Now, he uses this language, in Christ, in him, constantly, okay? And every time he uses it, he's referring to this unitive mystery. And there's also a kind of, what would you call it, experiential aura around this. This is not something that Paul just talks about. This is something, an experience, out of which he comes to talk about it. And which he presupposes is also your experience, the experience of being in Christ. Five, the sacramental, that is, Eucharistic participation.

[21:27]

Where he talks about it, he doesn't talk about the Eucharist often, obviously, Paul. And John doesn't talk about it at all, explicitly. But implicitly, there's a lot of it. Take the Last Supper. It's like a translation of the Eucharistic experience into another level of wisdom. Sapiential Eucharist. But in Paul, when he talks about, there's one bread, so we're all one, and so on. Because there's one bread, therefore we're all one. That kind of thing. It's another angle into the same reality. Six, now we get to language. There are words which seem to be simply synonyms for the same central, unitive reality. And I've listed a few of them there. So there's a centripetal movement among words in the New Testament. So that, say, truth and grace and glory and the power of God, all of these things seem to be pulled together so that they simply represent the same one thing. Different aspects, different facets, perhaps different experiences of the same reality.

[22:33]

But often it seems almost to be the same experience of the same reality. So there's a centripetal dynamism going on among the words in the New Testament. And in number seven, there's a centrifugal... That word is not so good at that point. What I mean is, a word tends to explode so that it opens up and becomes inclusive. So that it swallows all the other words. So that it seems to itself express the central mystery and then be exchangeable with a bunch of other words. These are probably just two sides of the same process. But in the Mark class we studied that word, paradosis or traditio, or handing over. And you see it here, you see it there. It seems to mean two different things, but it's the same word. And somehow it's expressing a theological unity between those two different spheres, between those two different events, let us say. Let us say the betrayal of Jesus and Jesus handing himself over in the Eucharist. Or Paul saying, this was handed down to me and now I hand it over to you,

[23:37]

and he's talking about the Eucharist. That one word pulls all the sides of the mystery together and leaves you just staring into the center of it. And there are other words like that. Then unitive symbolism, and there I speak especially of the paradise symbolism, because at least in John's Gospel he uses the paradise symbolism of the two creation accounts of the first and second chapters of Genesis as a means of pulling the whole New Testament together, pulling the whole mystery together. Now why is that? It's because when you talk about Adam and Eve, or usually just of Adam, and Adam corresponding to Christ, the first person and the last person, Adam the father of all, the progenitor of all human beings, and Jesus the son of man who is the last one who collects them all into himself. So there's a kind of, there's a chiasm, okay, that's written right into sacred history and pulls it all together in a very simple way.

[24:39]

Now remember also that you are Adam, and I am Adam, and your sister is Adam too. In other words, Adam is not, it's not meant to be a gender word at all. It's the one humanity, the primal, the primordial human person who is also the last human person. Jesus is on the beginning and the end. And when you get into that symbolism, therefore you're pulling everything together and relating it immediately to the individual as well. As we are in Adam, so we are also in Christ. So it's a very powerful means in John's Gospel of pulling it all together, especially in chapter 20, towards the end of John's Gospel. Now, there's a writer on Mark's Gospel, as we saw, who says that the title son of man, which Jesus uses for himself, always has this Adam reference to it. So that when he's referring to himself as the son of man, he's referring to himself as this primordial, this primal human being

[25:41]

who contains all humanity within himself. And therefore, as he walks around among you, you see him as the central point which is attracting everything, attracting ourselves and everything else to itself, to bring them all together into God. So that language is accompanied by, sort of soaked in this unitive sense. And you find a lot of the symbolism of the garden or the place, the special place. Let's look at Hebrews, you know, chapters 3 and 4. And the Sabbath is another creation term here, another Genesis term. And the tree, the tree of life, often it's just another tree, including the cross. And the central place, all of that, pulling into this first place, the place of the creation, as it were. The place which is in God, before the eviction, before the separation and division.

[26:43]

And the river of living waters. If you read John with an attention to that kind of symbolism, you'll be amazed at what comes out. Also, the symbolism of the city and of the temple and of the holy of holies, those are all centers, successive centers, which are often associated with the paradise symbolism. And the promised land, and the Sabbath rest. Now, number nine, I'm sorry to take so long with this, especially if you've already read this. Parable, irony and paradox, I put them all together, even though they're, especially parable is something different. But these are places where obscurity is used in order to communicate. It's a kind of, what would you call it, violent use of the apophatic, where obscurity is used in order to, as it were, force you to a unitive insight. It's like the Zen koan, where the difficulty, the obscurity, the opaqueness of the text is exactly that, which puts darkness before you.

[27:47]

It darkens your mind so that the unitive light may flash, so that you may have a perception, an awakening, of the whole knowledge, of the one knowledge. You don't have to agree with that, but I think you'll find that it verifies itself. There's wonderful parables of mercy in Luke, like the prodigal son, so evidently unitive, or the Good Samaritan, or on the writing this week coming out with Scott on Luke X. It's interesting. And I was thinking you two were talking, these Christological titles, which can have theological, etc., but the sense of union there, Christ is Lord, and so to abide in that Lordship, or Christ is the Good Shepherd. That's right. Also the Messiah, especially the Messiah, the Christ. Remember Christos, because the Anointed One. What's the Anointed One anointed with? He's anointed with the Holy Spirit, which makes you one with Him, which makes you the child of God in Him.

[28:48]

So his anointing. Remember where... Where is it? Somewhere... It's in Acts where they say... And that's when the faithful were called Christians for the first time, Christianos. Now the word Christian carries the word anointing with it, right? It carries Christos with it, or Messiah, whatever it is in Hebrew. It carries the anointing with it, so the Christian is the Anointed One, just as the Christ is the Anointed One, and the anointing is this very unitive anointing of the Holy Spirit, that is of the divine unitive being. So that too is a unitive title. A number of them are, you see. Also the whole healing things. Christ is healing all these, or casting out demons, all these situations that separate us, that alienate us, are overcoming Christ. That's right. And they tend to be pulled together into the one, what would you call it, healing of the resurrection. That is, Jesus going into death and coming out of it again,

[29:49]

and our coming out of it in Him. The healings tend to be reflections of that, and the exorcisms, the casting out of demons, for instance, of which there are so many in Mark's Gospel, I think implicitly are the purifying of the house so that the unitive Spirit of God can come and dwell in that house. So even they have a unitive... Remember the demon who is Legion. Jesus says, what's your name? He says, my name is Legion, for we're many. That curious thing, we're one and many at the same time. So Jesus casts him out, and thus cleans that house which is the human being. And it's not just one demoniac, it's everybody, it's us, it's the one humanity, the one human person, as it were, which he's cleansing so that the one, the unitive Spirit can come into it and bring it together in the unity which is God. So without forcing, a lot of those takes too much, the unitive thing is fairly close to the surface. Even in places where you have...

[30:49]

Remember the servants in the vineyard, the vineyard keepers who come at the first hour and the third hour and the ninth and the eleventh hour, and they all get the penny, they all get the same day's pay. So what's the penny? What's the denarius, or whatever it was? And all of the banquet scenes, you know, the parallels with the wedding banquet? What is that wedding banquet? The wedding banquet is the unitive being of God open to participation, and we all get married and we all drink of that wine which is the unitive, as it were, being of God. The elder son in the parable of the prodigal son doesn't want to go in, so that's our refusal of that, what would you call it, of that sharing, the feast of the very being, the one being of God. Okay, then the recognition and conversion scenes in the Gospel. When you see the woman come up and touch Jesus, the end of Jesus' cloak or something like that,

[31:50]

and she knows she's healed within him, and suddenly you know she's filled with faith and wonder. What's happening there? It's that one thing, that one reality. See, this whole business of looking for the Messiah, what are you looking for? You're looking for the one. We've been waiting for the one, we've had a lot. We've had a lot of people preach to us, where's the real one, where's the one? And so that recognition, which accompanies sometimes healing, sometimes just encountering Jesus, when the light comes on, that recognition of what that is, what that has appeared in the middle of the world, this one reality, that's just loaded with that kind of experience. And it's an invitation to us to enter into that experience of the recognition, once again, of Jesus. Our own encounter with Jesus, through the figure of Jesus in the Gospels. See, that's trying to happen to us again and again and again. Whenever that power, that light flashes out of Jesus, it's an invitation to us, once again,

[32:51]

to experience that, whatever it is. For whatever it is, is the unitive being of God. It's the only thing, it's the only reality. No, it's the one thing. The light is there. What light? The only light. There's only one light. And it's the same light that lights up inside of us. So, the last note there, the New Testament tends to work like that. In other words, it's not telling you about so-and-so, not telling you about contemplation abstractly. Paul doesn't talk about that. He talks about the experience of the Spirit. And it's not showing you one person who has just had a contemplative experience, or something like that. It's somehow drawing you in through the luminosity of what it contains and what it presents, which is all centered in the figure of Jesus. Drawing you into that experience, which is an experience of recognition. But the recognition in Jesus is actually the awakening in yourself of the same thing. Remember where Jesus, in John, it's marvelous, he uses that I am expression.

[33:52]

What does it mean for a human being, for a man, to say I am? Is he only saying that so that we will fall down at his feet? Or is he saying that so that we will realize whenever we reflect on our own identity, whenever we say I am, so that we'll feel within us that resonance, that surge of the I am of God, of the divine being, which is given to us in him. So when he says that, he's saying that for us, in some way. The I am of Jesus becomes, in some way, our own, not just our confession of faith, but our affirmation, our amen, as it were. Our very self-affirmation becomes, what would you call it, a resonance, an expression, a container of the being of God. Okay, then there are a bunch of texts here. I put the first letter of John at the beginning because I don't think there's anything else in the New Testament which is so soaked, so loaded with this unitive experience.

[34:53]

But before taking a few examples from that, Father Joseph brought up the fact that the synoptic gospels are missing here, which is an unforgivable piece of snobbishness. And he mentioned one or two last night. One wonderful one is that place where Jesus says, Jesus exalted in the Holy Spirit and said, I thank you, Father, for having hidden this from the wise and so on. And you can just see Jesus at that point, just filled with that experience, that experience of the one. And talking about the smart ones who can't somehow, can't receive that because they know too much, whose light is darkness in some way because it shuts out the unitive light. We have to ask ourselves what kind of knowledge that is. It shuts out the real knowledge. So that's in Luke 10, 21 to 24, and then you've got Matthew 11, 25 to 30, which corresponds to that.

[35:57]

And which adds something as well. Another place, I think... We have that for Jesus in Rome. Oh, yeah, yeah. That's the text chosen for us in Rome. Yeah. They're both so wonderful, those two texts. And where Jesus says, come to me, you know, and all you who are heavy laden and so on. It's almost like he's inviting you, heavily laden like Martha there, you know, who's busy about many things. He's inviting you into that place, and the yoke, the yoke which joins, you know, invites you to take on my yoke. And it's ironic because the yoke is something heavy, but this yoke is the very discovery of, what would you call it, the divine one in which burdens simply become, what would you call it, irrelevant in some way, in this experience of the divine being, experience of the divine oneness. It's the multiplicity in some way that weighs us down, you know, the division. But to find the meaning which goes all the way down to the center, to the core, which is this oneness of God, is to find the rest that he talks about.

[37:00]

And that, of course, also is the voice of Lady Wisdom in the Old Testament, isn't it? Reflected there. Come to me, that language. That's the language of Sophia. Another place in Matthew is Matthew 16. When Jesus says to the apostles, he says, who do men say that I am, and who do you say that I am? And Peter leaps out and says, you're the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus says, not flesh and blood have I revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. So there you've got content, okay? You've got a kind of recognition, but there's a lot more than just that factual recognition, just that coming of the title and so on. There's a lot more happening than that. So I think it's certainly one of these. In Mark you've got the baptism of Jesus, especially where the heavens are opened and so on. Once again you've got content. You can say, well, that's not it. That's not it, but it's in an aura of it. It's the content, the expressions that are used, the heavens are opened, the Holy Spirit comes down in a visible form

[38:05]

as the dove and so on, are merely, what would you call it, external or concrete particularizations of that central thing that's happening there. But this is the great moment of illumination. And then also, of course, the transfiguration in all three synoptic Gospels on the mountaintop, where they see Jesus filled with this light, especially as interpreted in the Ezekiel tradition, the uncreated light being seen. And being seen in a human being, which means that what you're really experiencing there, what the disciples are really experiencing is that same light within their own destiny, within their own self, as it's going to blossom there after the resurrection. Could we also hear the parts of the Sermon on the Mount, the attitudes? I'm thinking that we're so accustomed to this moralistic reading of the attitudes. You know, if you don't, if you aren't poor in spirit, you won't enter the Kingdom of God, unless you're pure of heart, otherwise you won't see God.

[39:06]

So it reduces you to the moralistic, usually. But there's, the real meaning is the communication of God's own self, the blessing of God. That's right. And being like God, and being like the Son of God. You can imagine. It's not, it's not, it is, it will all be under the law, as you heard it said, but now. That's right, that's right. And you can just imagine them sitting there around, okay, and Jesus there, oh, he's on the mountain, Matthew, and Jesus there at the center, and they're watching him, and they're hearing these words, and this thing is just opening up inside them. They see this realization. Blessed are you, you know, and they experience it. They experience that being of God. I think you can find that very generally in the New Testament, but it's impossible to say where it begins and where it stops. Especially the blessed are you, you know. And we say to the disciples, blessed are you, because your eyes see what they see, and you hear what you hear. That kind of thing. Okay.

[40:10]

Okay. It's a question now as to what to select and what to skip here. Let's get just a taste of that first letter of John, because I think it's very important. And here we may seem to be stretching things, but I don't think so. First of all, the first chapter, right at the beginning, and this prologue of the first letter of John corresponds to the prologue of the Gospel of John, too. Okay. It's a similar kind of formal piece set there with a similar content. And first he talks about that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen. What does it mean to hear and see that which was from the beginning? It doesn't just mean the beginning of Jesus Apostle,

[41:12]

at the beginning of their knowing him. Because remember, you've got the same expression at the beginning of the prologue of John's Gospel. So that means what really was from the beginning. That means that the light that was from the beginning, the one who was from the beginning, the unitive being of God, we have seen with our eyes, which is incredible, and heard with our ears, which is impossible, and touched with our hands, which is even more impossible. And we tell you about this. The only important thing that ever happened in the world, we're going to tell you about. So that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with him and with God the Father. Now, the fellowship sounds like a bond there, doesn't it? It sounds like a transaction, it sounds like something between, something transitive. But it's not. The word is koinonia. And what it is, is this very word of life which has been poured out now, and which is within us. We saw it, we heard it, we saw it and we heard it outside of ourselves, in the word, and now we experience it in ourselves,

[42:13]

and uniting ourselves, among ourselves, in the spirit. And that's the sequence. That's the way it goes. From the revelation to the unitive being in this one reality. So that's a kind of overture to this letter, which is just filled with the same kind of experience. For instance, and the verse is just following, God is light and in him is no darkness. If we say we have fellowship, notice the same word, koinonia, with him while we walk in darkness. It's a question of having fellowship with this light, in other words, of participating in this light, which is God, the divine light. John is not stingy about keeping boundaries and maintaining, what would you call it, the separateness of the creature from God. God is light, and we are in this light, therefore we somehow, that's one of the ways in which we share the being of God. But he says, if you claim to share the being of God in the light,

[43:17]

and you don't share the being of God in love, then you're a liar. Okay? He says somehow there's a continuity, an absolute continuity between the light and the love, because God is light and God is love, as he'll say later in the same letter. And you can't have one, really, without having the other. And I think there's a kind of a history, what would you call it, there's a sequence there. And notice the sequence from the word of life that we've seen and heard to the fellowship, and now from the light to the love, it's the same sequence. And you'll find that everywhere in the New Testament. We've referred to it in terms of moving from the baptismal moment to the Eucharistic moment. Another expression for it, it's pretty fascinating, is the red shift. In physics, Randy will be aware of this. As you move away from, let's say you're moving away from a star, from a white star, and as you move away from it,

[44:18]

since you're moving, the light that you get from the star will change in its frequency, in its wavelength. So it moves from white towards red as you move away from it. The red shift. And this has to do with movement. It's because you're not stationary. If you were stationary and the star was stationary, the white light would be white to you. But because you're moving, you're moving away, it becomes red. It may seem silly to connect that with what's happening here in the New Testament. But somehow, this is a general dynamism. Also, when you're talking about contemplation, think of the Neoplatonic or Greek notion of contemplation, or the Buddhist notion especially, of contemplative experience. A kind of luminous emptiness. A kind of white light beyond all being, in some sense. And here I'm perhaps doing violence

[45:19]

to what they would say about it. But the general idea of the absolute, the luminous absolute, also in early Christianity, in somebody like Evagrius Ponticus, where he talks about theologia, the knowledge of God, the absolute knowledge of God. And then look at the New Testament, and you see the same kind of shift, the same kind of movement, from the pure, as it were, transparency, which we've been talking about also as baptismal, towards something which is more affective, which is more a matter of heart than deep contemplative intellect, or simply Atman, which is sometimes becoming more human, and is moving, you might say, from light to fire, from light or knowledge to love, and so on. I'm being pretty clumsy about this. So it's got something to do

[46:20]

even with our own history, as we move. This is the sign, of course, of the expanding universe, is this redshift. If you look at a distant galaxy, the stars, they look redder because it's moving away from us. We're moving away from it at a rapid rate. It's got something to do with the movement of history, and the fact that spirituality itself, when we talk about contemplation, we're not talking about it in a static context. We're talking about it in a context of movement, of something parallel to an expanding universe, the movement of history. And that has to do with this shift that we find, whether we compare, say, Christian contemplation with Buddhist contemplation, or whether we look at this movement inside the Christian economy itself, from the light to the love, which is its necessary fruition. That's fascinating, to attach light to baptism, this illumination, I think it was called, and love to Eucharist as a copy.

[47:21]

Yes. And Bhagatji has this thing that the seven sacraments aren't all at the same level, but right at the center is the Eucharist, and everything else is in function to it, so that even if baptism comes first chronologically, it's as preparation, to leap into the Eucharist. So it could be something like that also, in terms of illumination, but not just stay there. That's right. See, the light itself is dynamic. The light has to go somewhere. It doesn't want to stay as light. It's like that Isaiah 55 passage, remember, as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and sink into the earth and come forth. The rain and the snow want to turn into something. They have to do something. They don't want to remain rain and snow. Similarly, the light itself doesn't remain as light. That's one of the other things about the contemplative life. We think that it's going to move towards greater and greater illumination. And then you get these stories. I've talked to a few people, and they say, well, I had enormous contemplative experience before I came into the monastery, and I never did it again. And you begin to wonder whether there's something wrong.

[48:23]

It's partly, I think, because the light comes in the beginning. The illumination is the beginning of life, and what comes afterwards is a kind of transformation in which the light itself is transformed, and which you are transformed. We don't move from illumination to illumination, from splendor to splendor on the level of experience itself. This is a big story, but we'll come back to it later on. Necessary vital movement of transformation into love. It's like some kind of abortion of the light, which wants to continue, be born in another way. I wanted especially to point out that section on the anointing in chapter 2, 20-27. You have been anointed by the Holy One,

[49:29]

and you all know. Now, what do they know? Nothing in particular, they just know. They know everything. Because there's a certain energy which is inside you, which knows everything. The energy of the Spirit, as it were, which is somehow all wisdom. Everything else is just the notes, but that's the music. Not because you say, you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. But what you heard from the beginning abide in you. Now, what is this that they heard? It's the Gospel, but it's also got to do with their baptism. In other words, the anointing, I'm convinced, is the baptismal grace. The anointing is the anointing, you might say, with the Word, with the light, with the truth, but especially thought of as the baptismal illumination, in which the whole Gospel somehow is contained. After they've heard the Catechesis, after they've heard the words, it's the baptism itself, that illumination, which makes the words present as one thing within themselves,

[50:30]

which is identical with themselves in some way. We talked about Christ and anointing and Christian, and that's what this is about, you see. That anointing, which is the very anointing of and with the wisdom of God, who is Jesus, the Word of God. The anointing which you receive from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. So, He'll say at this point that the anointing abides in you, and you must abide in the anointing. And He'll say, in another place, abide in Him, and let Him abide in you. And then He'll say in another place, abide in God's love, and let God's love abide in you. And then the Spirit dwells in you and so on. You see, it's all one, they're just expressions for the same one reality which eludes language, because it's so big that it includes all language. As His anointing teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in Him. So, abide in the anointing,

[51:30]

it abides in you, and then you abide in Him. You see how circular and frustrating the language is? Until we realize that this one thing that it's trying to get across to us, or not really trying to get across to us, trying to awaken within us because it belongs to us. When He talks about the anointing, this is that initiation into the initiation. You have received this now as it awakened within you. Are you aware of this? Have you forgotten it? Do you still know this? Are you still living in the light of this which you have and which you have become? I think we probably better quit. Instead of just trying to go on to that section before, let's spend one more section on this. The reason for that is I want to take up the baptismal thing explicitly and try to show how baptism and contemplation and therefore baptism in a monastic life with its contemplative core

[52:32]

and the unit of self involved in that are directly in continuity. They are all right there together. So, monasticism develops directly from baptism and this contemplative awakening or knowledge, light, is right in the center of it. So, you can read that in section four anyway and we might get to start it or we might spend the whole next time just concluding this Christian thing especially with the consideration of baptism and the contemplative experience, the unitary experience. I'll bring in another Merton texture to help with that. Merton takes that up pretty well here in the unitary experience but I noticed in the New Man, the last two sections of the New Man are entirely concerned with the baptismal experience, the Easter vigil and this new being. The next to last chapter

[53:33]

is called Sacramental Illumination and what that's about is the baptismal illumination. And then the final chapter is called Called Out of Darkness and where that image comes from is the Easter vigil and remember the fire that comes out of the rock and then the connection of that with baptism. So, that's the core of the whole thing. So, that's a precious resource. The last two chapters of the New Man. There are also a couple of passages and conjectures of Ability Voice 10 that I'd like to bring in to show the connection of the monastic life and its own affinity for the morning, for the dawn, for vigils and so on with this baptismal thing and then with the contemplative experience itself, the contemplative life. Okay, thank you. The key thing, it sounds like to me, in all that you're saying, is that there comes a moment when, or moments,

[54:34]

when all this is kind of contained within us. Baptism and all that you're saying, liturgy and Easter vigil and all that, are all ways of saying that all this is within us. And the key element is the awakening of it. That's right. And that happens, even though it's all there, it's like it wants to emerge, it wants to come to life, it wants to be born, it wants to explode, as you would say. That's right. It wants to move from the light to the red light. And that happens for each person at different times. And it's a matter of, it sounds like it's a matter of waiting for that to happen. Well, originally, I think it was a lot more, what would you call it, a lot more predictable in that it usually accompanied the baptismal experience. Now the first part, I don't mean so much the red shift at this point, but the initial illumination seems to have been fairly consistently experienced in the baptismal event. Which isn't our experience now.

[55:36]

It's not our experience. If we were baptized as infants and we may have never had an awakening of it, or we may have an awakening of it which we never identified with baptism. See, we didn't make the connection. Nobody told us to make the connection. Because our tradition has been very much alienated from initiation. That's beginning to be recovered now from several directions, but a lot of our thing is right there, you know. So how do we get back into intimacy with that original initiation experience and the fullness that's in it, you know, and that light, to start again from the fullness of that light with the necessary then dynamism of the light to move towards its own realization. And that it makes sense that it's not a matter of moving from illumination to illumination, but once it gets awakened, it's rather illumination to transformation to see what that does within one. That's right. That's right. The light disappears into the darkness and becomes fire, transforming from within. And that's even what's trying to happen in history, not just in the individual, I think, but in the world itself,

[56:38]

you know. As Christianity, in a sense, as its light may seem to go into eclipse, the invitation is to discover the fire inside that's changing the whole earth, the whole cosmos. Yes? Which brings about love. That's the key word. Yeah, love is the key word. Right, which includes poise, the peace of Christ, which is beyond all understanding. And, well, we have love, love I hear myself, and when you love and you daily keep yourself centered in Christ, you are in the grace of God. That's right. The love needs to be illuminated, that's the only thing. It's like we have to go back and forth. Just like we have that first moment in the Eucharist where we have that confession of sins at the beginning of the Eucharist, you know, the penitential moment of the Eucharist, it's like we have to put ourselves back in the light of the Word and say, am I really living in love? And then we start all over again. God's in there for you when you hold him and he's back on track. Yeah, yeah. So, the love, love is the point, but without the light,

[57:39]

love turns into something else itself. Just as the light somehow turns into something else if it doesn't go towards love, the love without the light will go bad. The light is sort of the salt that again and again renews the love in its own essential true character. The people who are never been baptized, yet they can love their neighbor. Well, just the Holy Spirit, God's a lot freer than we think. And the thing is that God doesn't make somebody and just leave them on the shelf somewhere in the warehouse. Everybody's somehow in intimate touch with God. Even the people who have never heard of Christ. They've got to be. Can you imagine a human life that has no relation to God, that has no opportunity to... I want to mention about the baptism, the awareness, the beginning of the awareness of Christ. Yeah. Now the true light can make all kinds of variations so that the attempt at a life that is knowledge

[58:40]

or technical technology and such and then all kinds of variations of love that people do all kinds of things so that the trick is to verify that in the experience perhaps the community is larger. And then we come back to the word which is light and the word again and again what would you call it? Criticizes our love. It gauges love and says whether it's true to itself or not. Okay. Thank you.

[59:13]

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