Contemplation and Inner Experience

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

Class VIII

Contemplative Prayer Set 2 of 2

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#class-series; #monastic-class-series


We read Merton's section 4, which is called, is titled, The Kinds or Phases of Contemplation, which are kinds and phases at once. But notice that in that section 4, first of all, the kind of ladder of contemplation is laid out for you, the whole scale, and then he treats half of the scale, which is the active part, active contemplation, or masked contemplation, or natural contemplation, all those different expressions. Now, that's, and Merton has greatly simplified the whole thing there. If you look at the Carmelite tradition, for instance, you find an enormous differentiation there, with all these levels of prayer. St. Teresa has her seven, what's she called, mansions of the interior castle, and sometimes there are even more. I just gave you a handout from a Carmelite book, Royo Alma, sort of standard treatise on the contemplative life, or spiritual life, and he goes in considerable detail into the


different levels. I think you've got nine of them there, so we'll briefly touch on them. It wouldn't be fair to skip it. So Merton is really trying to simplify it to a great deal. He's no doubt just come out of a battle between what you might call the psychological tradition of contemplative theology in the West, represented mostly by Carmelites and Dominican Carmelite sort of synthesis. And on the other hand, the monastic, Benedictine, and patristic tradition, which tends to broaden the scope, and you might almost think to lower it at the same time. We had a kind of diagram, you remember that thing last time. I should say something corrective about this. We were talking about, remember, Stoltz, and Carmelites, and then Stoltz, and then Carmelites. Now, this is not intended to represent reality.


This is two, three perspectives. This is three ways of looking at reality. The sort of elitist contemplative one, the one which focuses on Christian experience and a Christian kind of context, and the one which universalizes even beyond that, so that all of the spiritual traditions of the world are considered as having the same kind of experience. And then you can narrow down within that. So, Merton, Stoltz, and say, one of the Carmelite people, Roy O'Donnell, for instance, or the writings of St. John of the Cross, St. Therese, which, as in most Christian writings up to our time, you don't find any consideration of non-Christian mysticism at all. It's simply not in the world. And then, within Christian life, you start separating mystics from non-mystics, and so on, and levels of mystics, and so on. There's terrific verticality. But these are three perspectives. This is not reality.


We might, we'd have to make our own, who's to say what reality is. But these are very difficult points to settle. The relationship between, let us say, Christian mystical experience, the ordinary Christian experience, and then universal spiritual experience. There's no, you can't draw a diagram of it. It really represents those three levels, or dimensions of experience. Levels would be better. So that was meant to be a bit of a caricature, but I found it, actually, when I came on it, I found that it represented pretty well those three points of view. Okay, we gave short shrift to those alternative schemes of grades and phases last time. Let me just mention a few. There's the old three-stage scheme that goes back. They usually say to pseudo-Dionysius, of the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way, all right? It's interesting that they're called three ways, but they're usually understood as three


phases, three grades of spiritual life. Now actually, that's a very good pattern, and it's held up for, what, a thousand years or something, or more now. And with good reason. Because it's not simply interior, it's not simply psychological, it's not simply experiential, but it represents experience. And it really is, in some way, descriptive. It's almost universally accepted, I think, in Christian tradition. It's nicely, simply descriptive of the progression of our relationship with God, the absolute. You'll find it in John of the Cross, and Merton himself uses it here. He doesn't talk about it, he doesn't criticize it, he just picks it up and uses it. Remember where he talks at the end of the Section 5 about the paradox of the illuminative way? You see, he's accepting that tacitly, without saying that he is. Then there's the other one from Evagrius Pronticus,


of practicae, which is the ascetical life, teoria physicae, which is natural contemplation, as Merton has it, and then teologiae, which is mystical contemplation, or unitive experience. You find that right away in Evagrius' Practicas, you know, that edition of Bamberger, which is very handy, you should read that sooner or later. The introduction is very helpful. Practicas and chapters on prayer by Evagrius Pronticus. In the very first chapter of Practicas, Evagrius is very orderly, this is what he says, Christianity is the dogma of Christ our Saviour. Now, dogma, he doesn't mean exactly what we mean by dogma. It is composed of practicae, of the contemplation of the physical world, and of the contemplation of God. Those are the three levels. Practicae is what you do, it's your ascetical life, it's your active and largely exterior monastic life. Theoria physicae is the transparency of nature,


and of the scripture, that begins to happen in you as you progress, as you become more spiritual, and more detached, less passionate. And then teologiae is the pure, unitive, mystical contemplation of God at the top of the ladder. Now, that too is a very nice scheme, because it's so simple, and it's not merely experiential, yet it is experiential, but it relates your experience to the exterior world, to God, and to what's happening to you. It's really quite beautiful. And this, of course, goes back to the whole Greek tradition, dealing with that kind of thing. But you've got some other ones, like in Merton sometimes, you'll find something that comes from Augustine and Gregory the Great, where first you pull back from the world to yourself, or up to yourself from below, and then you go through the self to God. You'll find this in various formulations. You'll find it in Merton's The New Man, and so on. In other words, it's inside a theology of fall and redemption, or fall and reintegration, by which you separate yourself from God,


and then you fall out of yourself. And the typical New Testament text they use for that is the parable of the prodigal son, remember? When he was feeding the swine, he woke up and said, Oh, I will return to my father. But first he comes back to himself, and realizes, becomes conscious of his misery and what he has lost, and then he returns to his father. So that two-step movement, back into self, and back to God. Which, of course, can't really be separated completely into two steps, but it's got a nice kind of ontological truth to it. And then you've got, of course, Guigo de Carthusian's ladder, with which we're very familiar. Lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I've been saving this for Amalie, but there are two more steps that have to be included, which are criticatio and disparatio. That will be explained later. Very much connected with one another.


That comes in between meditatio and oratio. And from the disparatio comes the oratio. That's in a communal setting. OK, the Carmelite tradition, let's give some attention to that, because that's been dominant for our modern period. And I've tried to get it on one page there, and it comes from a big green book, of Goyo Alman. We've had a bunch of these handbooks of ascetical-mystical theology, as they used to call it, based on the Carmelite tradition, and, of course, on the scholastic tradition, OK? Because you're talking about St. Thomas Aquinas, and then St. John on the cross, basically. With some of St. Teresa's experience, and divisions also put in. OK, on that handout, which is H11, the numbering is out of order. It starts at the top, obviously,


and it's divided into two great categories here. First of all, ascetical stages, because they're talking about, they used to, the definition of the course would be ascetical-mystical theology, you see, so they would divide it into the ascetical level and the mystical level. And this was, when I was going to San Anselmo, this was the kind of current thing. And on the other side you had the monastic picture, which was sort of opposing it, was uncomfortable with it, and beginning to debate with it, and wanting to integrate things. And especially to integrate this with, what, with moral theology, and then with systematic theology, and the whole thing. To look at it all in one, rather than separating sectors off like this. Now, I've put, underlined in capital letters, the equivalents in Guigo's letter there, Lectio, Meditatio, Horatio, and Contemplatio, as you'll see, but that's very approximate. You'll notice that the Carmelite tradition develops some stages much more fully than our tradition does. And this is valuable.


I think that Carmelite understanding and vision of the life of prayer is something that you should learn. And you'll find that it corresponds with some of your experience. And it can be very valuable. We shouldn't ignore it. I think Benedictines tend to be too disdainful of what they would call a psychological introspection, all those intro words, you know, and self-reflection and all that. We can put that down a little bit too much. Maybe that we don't have enough of it. So first of all, and quite obviously, up at the top you've got vocal prayer. Now notice, I've put Lectio there because that's parallel with it, because this is verbal. But notice that the Carmelite thing remains within the sector of prayer all the time, whereas this is broadened to include Lectio, the something which reaches more into your exterior life, your liturgical life, and so on. And then Meditatio, and meditation. Now notice what they mean by meditation


I think is the same thing that Guigo means by meditation, except by the time of the Carmelites it's probably gotten more systematic and more scientific in some way, because there's been also Jesuit input, the input of the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius, where you do this very deliberate program of kind of directing your mind, your reflection onto various things. But notice how different this is from what we usually mean by meditation today. What do we mean by meditation today? We mean, basically, I think, the same thing that a Zen Buddhist would mean, or a Hindu, or a transcendental meditation person would. Entering into the quiet, the emptiness, the silence, the depth, without words and without thought. But this is thought, this is thinking, okay? So this is Meditatio from a particular sector of the Christian tradition. And what we mean by meditation today, I think they'd be more inclined to call Hezekiah or something like that, or quiet. So you find a lot of,


what would you call it, diagonal lines, if you try to put things side by side, and a lot of fuzzy connections, but a rough parallel between them. So this is really reflection. And sometimes it can be highly, what would you call it, highly systematic, highly scientific, and very alien, actually, to both the spirit and the word, I think, if it gets too programmatic, too scientific. Because the natural way of reflecting on scripture, for instance, is to let yourself be drawn into the orbit of the word, rather than putting the word into some kind of machine in which you stamp out reflections and resolutions, that kind of thing. Okay, then you move to affective prayer from meditation, which I've related to eratio, because eratio, usually in our tradition, doesn't mean the external verbal prayer, of course, in Guigo's letter. It means an interior movement, a movement which has come from your reflection on the word.


And here, you've moved over from one faculty to the other. In this Carmelite scheme, there's a lot of analysis of faculties, of the different, your will, and your mind, and your affections, and your imagination, and so on, are all differentiated. And that's something we don't do, usually, in the monastic tradition. We don't have that analysis, that differentiation. It's useful at a certain point, but it can really be overdone. It can be overdone to such an extent that the unitive aspect of what we're talking about disappears completely, and then you're in trouble. And that's the trouble with these big books. There's so much analysis in them that you get lost in the machinery, and you start trying to correlate one detail with something you've experienced, and so on. You just get lost in the whole works, and you lose the total vision. So this really needs to be digested into a unitive vision. Merton helps us to do that. You see why, the way he simplifies these things. Okay, affective prayer. Then there's a somewhat more subtle movement from affective prayer to the prayer of simplicity, where this dynamic aspect has,


it's almost like the flames coming up from the wood. The wood is somewhat consumed. It's almost as if now you have just a glow, or a low fire, not leaping flames, but a kind of low, steady fire. And there's a differentiation between this and the next kind, infused recollection, as they call it. Now these are subtleties and can easily be ignored without losing much, and especially exactly where the contemplative prayer takes over. Now notice that if you compare what we've been looking at up to this point, or down to this point, it's different from what Merton did with his active contemplation, isn't it? Because you had a sense of more, that active contemplation is moving more out into life. There was more creativity about it, more of a sense of creativity. Now this has something to do with his personality, and his particular interior way of operating.


But I think it's also valid, that this is too compressed into a narrow channel of prayer, of spiritual life, of mystical life, and other aspects are ignored too much. And the creative aspect is very important. Now we move into what they call the contemplative or mystical stages. Infused recollection, we don't have to stay long there. But this is, notice, it's set on one of the faculties, on the intellect and the mind. So this is something like your meditation, but it's a contemplative level of that. Another prayer of quiet. This is important. And this is a big threshold of experience in the contemplative life. People who find themselves suddenly drawn into their interior and into a deep quiet. Hezekiah, as the Greeks would call it. The word Hezekiah, by the way, has a lot of meanings. They're all related. But this experiential meaning is only one of them. It also meant a way of life, a whole kind of vocation.


Hauser is one who's written a lot and very well about Hezekiah, by the way. We've got a book of his on that. As well as Hezekiahism, which is a particular school of contemplative monasticism. Captivates the will and fills the soul and body. Notice this differentiation. You're continually doing a kind of anatomy here. Fills the soul and body with ineffable sweetness and light. This is something which a person, what would you call it, will experience and then have no trouble in understanding what this is and what this means. There may be a little trouble in putting it into words. But there's hardly a better word than simply quiet. Hardly a better word than quiet. Quia is Hezekiah, something like that. But this is quite, it's a leap from one level to another, a giant leap to the next stage, which is called by St. Teresa, Prayer of Union.


Notice that it's Teresa who makes these categories more than John of the Cross. John of the Cross really has a different system, in which is a case of purification. He's more of a, what would you call it, he's a kind of a worker. He's interested in the technology of purification and of movement into mysticism. St. Teresa is much more experiential in this sense than he is. She makes an experiential ladder of levels of prayer. And John of the Cross makes a ladder of what? Of stages of purification. And stages of not a happy experience, but stages of aridity and darkness, the nights. So it's a different framework, moving in the same direction, moving through the same territory with two different perspectives, which together become a very powerful spirituality. And that's why it's held up for these centuries. Do these correspond with St. Teresa's mansions? No, not quite. You'd have no trouble in making the correlation between them, but they're not, they've made extra categories,


extra distinctions, which you'd have to push aside. For instance, the Prayer of Union is St. Teresa's fifth mansion. That's number seven here. The Prayer of Union is her fifth mansion. And the Prayer of Transforming Union would be her seventh mansion. Whereas the Prayer of Ecstatic Union doesn't quite correspond to her sixth mansion. And then she'd skip the bottom couple there. Because remember, she's not just talking about the prayer life, she's talking about moral life too. The people who are outside the castle, remember, and who are subject to various kinds of sin and so on. So there's more, this is more narrow than her. More narrow and more differentiated. Now this is, this Prayer of Union is, I believe, quite sure, the really, what would you call it,


completely unitive experience, which corresponds to the mystical contemplation that we've been talking about so much and that we're finding in Merton in this part five of his interior experience. So this is, you've crossed the threshold now. It's like quiet, the Prayer of Quiet is a threshold. And this is across the threshold into the completely unitive kingdom. The only thing is that you're not there all the time. This is an intermittent experience, let us say. Or maybe it only happens to you once, a kind of peak experience. Whereas the Transforming Union in number nine has become a state, okay? You're established in a state. It's the spiritual marriage, the equivalent of that. Therefore the person has been transformed or is in the grip of God to such an extent that they don't fall back into the other stages. Even if the unitive experience is, what would you call it, the full unitive experience is intermittent, that they're always on a unitive plane. And it always seems to be, and somehow just, I think, across, just across the partition


or something, the partition is very thin. So that even though they can't have it at will, perhaps, they know it's there. There's a kind of unitive consciousness, I think, all the time in that final stage. Yes? Between six and seven in that giant step area, is there a tendency to get stuck sometimes? Or to experience a lot of extravity and darkness before going from one to the other? Yes, I think so. I think the prayer of quiet can happen early on. And you could spend like 20 years experiencing an intermittent prayer of quiet before having an experience of full union. The whole night of senses may be taking place while you're experiencing intermittently the prayer of quiet and never the prayer of union, of full union. And then all of a sudden, after that night of senses is over, you might have a burst of this full experience of union. Well, that's because John Cross and Therese of Ottawa, would you say it's fair to say there's a balance out between a masculine and a feminine approach? Yes, very much.


But both of them are in another kind of container, enclosure, another context which also needs to be brought in. They've both accepted certain presuppositions which are too confining for us now. But they are very complementary. They also represent, to some extent, the apophatic and cataphatic ways, but not completely. John is much more apophatic. The other thing, the way in which they really contrast is mind and heart, which is largely masculine and feminine. Because John of the Cross is an intellectual mysticism. And for him, it's this delectable knowledge of God. But of course, when they talk about the higher stages of that knowledge of God, they're talking about union. And so at one moment they call it union, at another moment they call it knowledge, at one moment they might say it's not knowledge. At another moment it's the ultimate, absolute knowledge beyond knowing, that kind of thing. So when somebody thinks and has to speak or write, they move back into the world of knowledge. And the world of knowledge somehow moves all the way,


all the way into that. And yet it's not, it's not just knowledge, it's union. So it's really the absolute limit of language. John of the Cross distinguishes between the night of the senses and the night of the soul, right? Night of the spirit, yeah. I think both of those would be included in the night of the soul. But the exterior night of the soul is the night of the senses. It may depend a little bit on translation for the Spanish, and the other one is the night of the soul. Now I thought the night of the senses would be between the pergative and the illuminative, and then the night of the spirit and the night of the soul would be between the illuminative and the unitive. I think that's roughly valid, but not entirely. And you can have, let's say, touches of the illuminative and even of the unitive way in the beginning, which makes things very confusing. But I think it frequently happens. Somebody may have a unitive experience and then they have to start at the bottom of the ladder. So, let's say, individual experiences


are very different from the stage on which one is standing at a particular point. But in general, I think, wouldn't the night of the senses be much earlier than after the prayer at the fire? Wouldn't it be way down there and around the meditation and then back to the prayer? It should be, but I'd say it should be, but it's not, in the sense that the people who really experience quiet in very early stages, like in monastic life, okay, like in the novitiate, I think, most people probably experience the prayer quiet in the novitiate. They're only beginning the night of the senses. The night of the senses lasts a lot longer than we think it does. It can go far, overlap the night of the spirit quite a bit, too. But most of the night that we know, actually, is the night of the senses or the night of the spirit is really something like John's prayer. Yeah, that's what, yeah. You're really thrown into the furnace, you know. So most of the night that we know is the night of the senses. It's always funny when people talk about going to the dark night of the soul, I always think,


you know, it's quite a compliment to yourself. When you read in the first chapter of a book that I'm going to begin where Saint John on the cross weaves off, you know, after the dark night of the spirit, I'd advise you to give the book to somebody else. Or, because, you know, it's unreal. There's a kind of inflation. There's a kind of super spiritual inflation nowadays by which these people who are really, you know, they're Himalayas of the spirit are thought of as something we can easily, a little like complete, you know. Could you give a few descriptions of the night of the senses? Excuse me? Could you give a few descriptions of the night of the senses, John? Okay, Merton does some of that in here, you'll notice, okay. And maybe we should, maybe we should take it from Merton and have a basis to do it on. It's right at the end of his part, Roger. It's on page, my page 72, his page 78. You got it? He gives you a nice clear


and concise exposition there. St. John on the Cross explains, okay? Got it? Two levels of purification. Purification of the exterior and interior. Notice exterior and interior senses. What would be the interior senses? Imagination and feeling, things like that. Things on the psychic level. Although, actually, it's pretty difficult to correlate this whole thing with psychic and level of psyche and spirit, because it all seems to fall within the level of the, all the purification seems to fall within the level of the psyche, the way we usually speak of it. Because we speak of the spirit very often as equivalent to the atma and a purely unitive central level of our being. So, I don't have that clear. But his, his scheme here is pretty clear. Night of sense, the exterior self is purified and to a great extent they're not completely destroyed. That's awful. Now notice,


what does he mean by exterior self? That's the, the self of the psychological self, the self that relates to the world through feeling, emotion, imagination and thought. Okay, now that goes pretty deep. They call that the exterior self, it goes pretty deep. But it's connected with the ego and connected with our ordinary, our ordinary self-image, that kind of thing. And, and the dark night of the spirit, even the interior man is purified. He doesn't go far with that. And maybe he's just wise not to because he hasn't been through it. That is, he hasn't been through enough of it to be able to talk about it with, very few people have. It's as if there's a, there's a self, a level of self by which we relate to the world and we're determined by the world. And that


is deeply purified in the night of sense. And then we are left with, let us say, the spiritual man who himself somehow is still contaminated by ego, still contaminated by what we call selfishness or even exterior self in some ways. Very difficult to keep these things distinct. They tend to pop back together. And so that inner person has to be purified so that it can be filled completely with God, made completely one with God. And that's the night of the spirit. The night of the spirit, yes. And the night of the soul embraces both of them, I believe. But it depends on how you work with the Spanish words. I guess that most recent, he said spirit there, I just thought, I thought he was using, it seems, I thought he was using


spirit as being soul. It's like the translation I have of John McCraft is where he distinguishes the night of the senses and the night of the soul. Well, in that case, that's what I mean to say is spirit here. But we have to be careful with that because soul is such an ambiguous word. As you might have heard in my talk. Yes, indeed. Yeah, it's better for us not to use the word soul here. Because even the, like, see, if we're talking about the purification of the sense in our ordinary way of thinking, that's purification of the soul. Because these senses are part of the soul. They're not part of the spirit, we might say, but they're part of the soul. So the terminology is really tricky here. And Merton is not always consistent and perfect with his terminology. And when he says something like destroying the exterior self, well, what are we to understand by that? At another moment, he would use much gentler


and more carefully honed language to talk about that purification. If it's a real self, how can you destroy it? And don't we need an ego, for instance? Don't we need an exterior self? So there's danger of kind of going through this territory with a shotgun, as Merton does occasionally. But I thought that's why it's associated with the purgative way. Like at the end of the purgative way, then comes the background of the senses, which is more like aesthetics. Well, the only trouble is that the whole purification is purgative, okay? So even the night of the spirit is purgation. So they overlap to such an extent, you know? And I don't remember how St. John of the Cross correlates his system, his structure, with the three-stage system of purgative, luminative, and unitive. I'm not sure that he's consistent about And then somebody like Ruth Burroughs makes it like a dynamic Yeah, and she redraws the whole thing in some way. She exerts a lot of pressure


on it, at least on St. Teresa's scheme. I don't know what she does with John of the Cross. The exterior self is completely destroyed. How is that destroyed? Yeah, I have trouble with that language. I think you might say that the exterior self image is destroyed, and all that goes with it, all right? Or that the obsessions and compulsions and attachments of the exterior self are destroyed. But to say that a self is destroyed is very risky language. And he'll be more careful in other places. I hate to throw in another name, but Evelyn Underhill's second half of the Mysticism book might be helpful, too. I think she's got five stages, but she draws on that original three stages. She uses John of the Cross and Teresa of Adelaide, and then keeps highlighting and complementing it with Eckhart and Reisberg and some of the other Rhineland istics and gives it a


nice filling out. That's almost close to a hundred years old. She's saying stuff like careful saying when you get to the end of the purgative way, because you're pulling this out that there is an end or ever will be an end. Purgation goes the whole of this life. What is death if not a final purgation in some sense? And we have to recognize also that this is human language. All this stuff is artifacts. It doesn't go as deep as it should. To go really deep we probably have to go to the Bible. Then we lose our boundary lines again. We're in a new world, but we're relating to ultimate truth in a way which these distinctions and categories don't. I have to go through all


those three stages. At every stage of the way there's a purgation and an illumination. It's probably true. I think that's true. You could say that every experience, if you like, has three cones, but I'd rather say three spheres. One would be unitive at its center, one would be illuminative, and then one would be purgative, the exterior one. That every sort of divine spark that hits us has these three concentric spheres to it, and it does all three in some way, so that we really have unitive experiences of God at a very early level. But most of their energy has to go into the purgative level, and is lost, and therefore the unitive experience can't unfold itself, can't blossom. And then later on, when there's more purgation done, more of that energy can go into illumination, and finally it can all be experienced as union, something like


that. That too is only a model, it's only an image. Yeah, I agree with you. One about the external self and the inner self. I think William Johnston, referring to Jung, talks about the third birth, the passing away of the first self, and the birth of the second self. I think that's interesting too. Jung talks about the third birth of the middle age. The third birth? What's the second one? The first is the impact. The second is the puberty. So the third is the middle age. And the fourth is the last, the final. The third would be the birth to interiority, would it not? Yeah. So William Johnston referring to Jung, talks about this dying or passing away of the first self. That's the self we


appear in front of the world, the first part of our life. But there's always a deeper self within which wants to emerge. So during the midline, usually after a crisis, a strong experience, conversion experience, so let go of the first self in order to let the deeper self, the real, the true self, to emerge, to be born. He uses that image in our life. I think Jung has a lot of wisdom of that kind. And the Jungian pattern is very good in the sense of basically the first half of life being the life of the exterior self. When it has to function, has to expand itself, sort of build its kingdom, and then that dies. And the second half of life is the growth of the interior self. Then of course he doesn't say what happens after that. And then he talks about the conversion experience


to the next half. And Jung's kingdom is the second half of life, of course. We can't say much about how psyche and spirit relate to one another in his vision. That's a very complex question. Any other questions before we leave the Carmelite scheme behind? We could spend a year on that because it's complex and also relates deeply to experience. You have another handout about which I need to make more reservations, and that is from Ken Wilber. It's from a book called No Boundary. Ken Wilber is sort of the Einstein of the transpersonal psychology movement. And what he's done is to sort of make a unified field theory of human growth. And what


he does is to take psychology, psychotherapy, spirituality, and put them together on a single ladder. Now the ladder is a ladder of downward movement in which you move, you might say, from small consciousness to big consciousness. So if you want references, I've got plenty of references. There's also one fairly concise article of his in which you can get an idea of what he's doing. I can't expect really to get it from this diagram. The diagram obviously is here twice, once at the top where you have the simple spectrum of consciousness as he calls it. It's a wonderful expression and a wonderful vision. And down at the bottom where he's correlated the spectrum of consciousness with different, as he calls them, therapies. But notice that the ones at the top, first you've got the $25 therapies and the $35 therapies. Then you're getting down into the $75 and the SOM therapies. And then we're getting down to the $125 an hour therapies. It's only


50 minutes. It's not even a full hour. It's awful. If you can find it. No, no, no, only large mammals. In fact, the thing is simply marvelous. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this and yet you've really got to sort of pulverize it and criticize it and hammer it and break it apart and put it back together again. Otherwise it will kind of over-impress. There's a terrific synthetic power here. Like one intuition in which the whole thing has been pulled together. But how much reality is there? Okay. I won't point out all the problems. The basic problem for me is that he's coming from, what would you call it, an Eastern metaphysic in which there's


only one absolute reality and that's absolute consciousness. There's no such thing as the created and the uncreated. And there's no personal, there are no personal stops on this spectrum. You slide, you shoot all the way from the top to the bottom without stopping at a uniquely human person with its own consciousness and center of volition and without stopping at a personal creating, loving, acting, interacting, relational, speaking God. Okay? So it's that smooth shoot. It's got this terrific power of the Asian non-dual metaphysical perspective, okay, which tends to swallow everything. And we have to do an awful lot of reconstructing, actually, to bring it back to something that would be an acceptable vision for us. I give it to you just because it is valuable and because I do believe that the unitive reality is the ultimate reality, which contains all others


and towards which we move. But it needs an awful lot of subtleties and distinctions and things like that. I don't think he intends the, on the bottom diagram there, I don't think he intends there to be a meaningful border between the different things together on the left. Notice, in other words, Vendanta Hinduism is not intended to be the shallowest of those and Esoteric Judaism, the deepest, anything like that. That's fairly obvious, isn't it? Do you think that, I'm thinking of somebody like Stephen Vandy Grishel, you talk about psychology, spiritual development, that maybe, especially in this day and age, when things have gotten so complex in your personal relations, that you really can't get into, can't even begin


to understand the spiritual life until you've worked through so much of the psychological package? I think there's some truth to that, because otherwise you mistake your psychological struggle for a spiritual struggle. Yeah. Even though the spirit is working through the psychological, just as in AA or 12 Steps or anything like that, the spiritual is right there, you know, working through all the psychological stuff. And yet, really they're different levels. And then later on one would confront the spiritual head-on with the psychological more or less aside at that point. Okay. We haven't gotten very much still to today's specific material. Last time we talked a lot about, somewhat at least, about those two levels of contemplation,


or two levels of what would you call it, spirituality that Merton talks about. Two levels of contemplation, active and unitive, or active and mystical. And I wanted to point out at least that they relate, they're parallel to cataphatic and apathetic, okay, and that those are two dimensions of our life, and we can't go just for one and leave out the other. That they have to be brought into a kind of balance. If you just read St. John of the Cross, you'd probably go too far on the apathetic side, and you might unduly starve, say, your imagination, your heart, your psyche, all of those things, without which we simply can't proceed. We are what we are. Don't do it. All right. Here's a report from the apathetic kingdom. Well, I think that's pretty classical, like even the Buddha, in a sense, did, you know, when he went too ascetical


and so on. Too much denial, too much There's an apathetic, what would you call it, experience, apathetic prayer, and mysticism. There's an apathetic life, which is a monastic life. But monastic and life. And if the word monastic is printed in bold type, and the word life is printed in, say, draft or light print, you can be in trouble. Because basically it's got to be affirmative. Basically it's got to be a life. If the no, the negative, takes predominance, the essential negative dominates over the essential affirmative, you're in trouble. What's Matthew Fox doing, if it's not to reassert the essential affirmative, the essential yes, that underlies all the no's, all the relative no's of ascetical tradition, monastic tradition. Okay, let's take a look at this section of Merton, which is a We've already looked at the end of it before we


quit today. And then for next time I'd ask you to read the next section, okay, section six. You notice we've got a systematic lag in our treatment here. Now Merton's talking, he's already talked about active contemplation, and now he's going to talk about mystical contemplation, or what he calls passive contemplation. And according to him the distinctive dividing line there is about passivity and also about transcendence. But the passivity and the transcendence go together because what's characteristic of this experience is that it transcends our activities, okay, so that it becomes a passive, as he said, experience of God. Now that word is a dangerous word, that word passive, isn't it, because passivity has a very negative connotation for us. But it comes from, of course, from the Latin, it comes from the classical tradition. Pati tor divina, he suffers, to suffer means to experience, to be passive. What is it, patior,


I guess is the Latin word, patior, is to experience, to suffer, and only the passivity, the notion of passivity in our language has gotten narrowed down to something else which is like inertness, okay, rather than being an interactive thing, rather than being a receiving. So here it means receiving, it's a receptive experience rather than an active experience. He's got a wonderful quote from Dionysius, the Areopagus, and notice the expression cloud of unknowing there, which presumably is where the author of the cloud of unknowing got his idea, and the ray of divine darkness, it's marvelous. There are several expressions in there which has become absolutely classical to our tradition. And knowing and unknowing, and this experience is a question of union before it's a question of knowledge. And so, the union is the core of it somehow, and the


knowledge is like its mediation to us, our experience of it. Okay, now he sets out to summarize the essential elements of mystical contemplation, and then, I don't know what hit him at that point. Whether he was called out to milk the cows or to chuck hay into the barn or what, but cheese, cheese. He was called, and the cheese factory is coming out at the end where he talks about the institution suppressing and crushing the tender spirit, tender sensitive soul of the contemplative. That's the cheese factory coming out of it. Because he sort of goes into a whirl here, and he's going to make a list, and we're happily looking forward to one, two, three, four, and the thing starts drifting and looping, and coming around back and returning on itself. Digressing and so on. So, anyway, he's got it all in there. I tried to summarize the 11 points.


First of all, one, transcends sense and intellect, okay? Two, it's a knowing and unknowing, light and darkness, and then it, once again, transcends feeling and concepts. Three, love and detachment. But he'll come back all the time, say something he said in the paragraph just before. Four, it's passive, that is, God's initiative is decisive. Five, it's a knowledge which is not of one faculty, for instance, of the, even the deep intellect, but it's unitive. So, the paradox there of a knowledge which is unitive, which means that basically it's a union of the whole person, and a union in God which unites the person in itself, pulling the faculties together. It's essentially a transaction of love in some way, a matter of love. Seven, love is sufficient to itself. So, he gives a paragraph to Saint Bernadette. Eight, contemplation


is passive. He already said that. And, reflection on oneself is useless and obstructive at this point. We have to get out of the way and let it happen. Nine, contemplation is often a painful experience because the light of God seems contradictory to our very being, in some way, to our exterior self. Ten, which just carries this further, it brings about what he calls a terrible interior revolution. That expression will come up here and there in Martin's writing. A crisis. And then, finally, he's come back sweating from the cheese factory, and he's at Santa Rosa number 11. That the testing of the individual may be intensified by institutional circumstance. Now, this is not just Abbott Fox, but this is the liturgy and everything else. That is, the tendency


to prefer the common and the communal and the collective and the institutional and the common sense things over the delicate inspiration of the spirit and the attraction and orientation of the interior life. Now, this is sort of the number four Merton talking, and in other places you'll see the kind of tough Merton, the number one Merton, I suppose, talking and saying, cut out the nonsense, let's get down to work, and it's all good for you. So, we've rushed through that. I leave it to your own reading. It's very difficult, actually, to try to straighten it out in a systematic way, but that's not important. And then he ends up on page 62 with this awful assertion, and that is why in so many contemplative monasteries there are few or no real contemplative.


Now, I colored that with my orange felt pen because of the amount of truth that there is in it. However we explain that, I think we have to start at that point by realizing that, okay? And it depends on what you mean by contemplative, and we don't want to stand in the position of the Pharisee and draw a circle, an elitist circle around that word. And if we do, then we should put ourselves outside of the circle, not inside. But the fact is we do not have a strong contemplative tradition at all. Hardly anywhere in our Christian tradition is present. So, that's where we start from, and that's where we embark from. Then he's got five texts about contemplative prayer from John of the Cross, from Blissett Ricebrook, from The Cloud of Unknowing, to Heist of Eckhart, and finally goes back to St. Bernard with a debt of loyalty there. Before he sets out


on the text, he asks, well, how can you be sure about mystical contemplation? Isn't it very hard to identify? We've gotten into subtleties here and that kind of seemingly difficult criteria. No, he says, you don't have any doubt about it when it happens. And it's very simple and very obvious, he says, even though it's very interior. And somehow it fills you. Somehow it's like seeing your mother or something like that. It's like seeing completely spontaneous and obvious experience in a sense. It's not at all subtle in that sense, even though it's interior. Almost like a recognition. In the old days they might have talked about it as a recognition. And then he talks about the three signs and I think he gets these from St. John of the Cross. I'm pretty sure he does. But I haven't checked it out in John of the Cross. I believe those three signs in John of the Cross were in the Ascent of Mount Carmel. And then finally about the paradox of the Illuminative Wave which is the fact that the interior man is set at war with the exterior man. And that you're wrestling


not only with God, but God is wrestling with you, but you're wrestling with yourself. You seem to be... And the other side of the paradox is at a certain point you feel when you're going lost forward you seem to be going backwards. That is, all of the signs and assurances of progress seem to drain away from you and you seem to have lost everything. And that's simply the further test of faith to keep going. Okay, now, I've rushed through that in order to be able to put on time. We can return on some of this material next time if anybody would like to discuss it further. But please do read the next section and we'll try to get partly through it. Thank you.