Contemplative Prayer

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Contemplative Prayer class

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that the older experienced monks would share their experience of contemplative prayer, but not just as an exquisitely personal witness, but tying in their own experience to some kind of, oh, a document or tradition. So you've had John talking about the brief rule of Romuald and using that as a springboard. Then you've had Bruno using the document of Merton on inner experience. So I thought what I'd do would be to use a cluster of monastic writers on the contemplative life, and this because each one of them has been important to me, so it's hard to take just one. That would be kind of artificial, and just stick with that, since at least in my own personal experience there's these various kind of streams that flow together. It'll be principally The Cloud of Unknowing by that anonymous author, but also others


of the splendid English school, and so Laurence Flindon here can keep us on a straight, if I mispronounce anything, just tell me. So we'll be looking at Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, Richard Rolle, and that cluster of 14th-century English mystics, quite wonderful figures. Then we'll be looking back a bit at Sundarid and his work in this area, and then we'll be wandering a bit into St. Bernard, and then really wandering into someone like Brother Laurence, etc., but hopefully it won't be just eclectic. And each one of these presentations, John's and Bruno's and mine, we're hoping that Father Joseph Demer will be able to offer something, we're hoping that Father Enred will be able to offer something. And maybe I say, oh, we're going to do something. What this is about is to challenge each one of you. How would you articulate your understanding of what we're all about, of what this contemplative


business is all about? Why did you come here rather than in active order? What do you do when you're in office or in solitude and are praying? I knocked on someone's hatch yesterday, and there they were praying. It was quite startling. They said, well, isn't that why I'm here? And so it was. So how would you work that out? How would you give that flesh and bone to talk to others about what contemplative prayer is all about? So hopefully at every point, this would be challenging, it would be experiential, immediately or more immediately. We want to be practical here, remembering, though, what Chesterton said, often there's nothing so practical as a good theory. So we'll be looking also at some theology, especially theology of the human person, kind of a phenomenological theology of the human person, are different dimensions and faculties


and powers. Which of these can get us into a mediated communion with God? Which of these can get us into an immediate communion with God? What's the safest way to go? What are the jungles and the byways and the marshlands out there, or rather in there? So we'll want to look at all of that. My thesis up all the way through, in an almost obsessive way, will be very simple. All the way through, we have this central theme of contemplation, contemplative prayer, which is hopefully holding the unity to it all. But what is contemplative prayer? What is contemplation? So contemplation is, someone had written an absurd word there, but we erased it. So what would we put there? How many of you remember poor Father Bruno's 10 Theses on Contemplative Prayer? I'll be taking him as a kind of an enemy during this, simply as a kind of a pedagogical


method, and I've already told him that, and he's going to listen to the tapes and then write back. Firing up. What was his first thesis on contemplative prayer? Who remembers here? No, we're not going to look it up, brother. See he has 10 theses. If you remember, one is more convoluted than the next, and one is more obscure and entangled than the next. He starts out, contemplation is unitive, non-dual knowledge. No one here remembered that. I didn't remember. It's a dreadful thing. It's wrong. So if you want to just scratch that out and just say, no, that's not what it is. He's saying basically contemplation is knowledge, and then he'll follow through all the way through just dreadful stuff. Faith is a dark unitive knowledge, the beginning of contemplation, et cetera. So this isn't the English tradition, is it, Lawrence? We're going to take quite a different track.


So our thesis is contemplation is, we can use a fancy Greek word, agaphe, period. If you work that out in all its implications, that's all you need. So he needed 10 theses to, it was more obscure at the end than at the beginning. We'll simply say, contemplation is agaphe, and if you wrestle with that all the way, that'll do it. So my series of presentations are going to be about that. Remember all his, I guess he took five or six classes to talk about how do we tie in contemplation into scripture, because we're supposed to be people of the book, and where does Jesus talk about gnosis, or different levels of non-dual knowledge, or something? Oh, yes. Agaphe means what? Agaphe. Good question. Agaphe is the New Testament word for love. Why we avoid love is that it kind of, as we'll see, it's an ambiguous, equivocal, almost


a tainted word in English. So we can say agaphe, we can use caritas, or hopefully at the end we have the courage to reclaim our English word of love. Caritas is the Latin, love. So what we're saying is natural contemplation is human love, specifically Christian contemplation is Christian love. And at the end we'll see that what he's saying and what we're saying is not that far apart at all. But it's fun to try to bounce the one off the other and take issue and be disdainful, and it does help in remembering things. But that's our one thesis, and if you unpack it, our thesis is you'll have enough to understand insofar as we can understand Christian contemplation, and also the practice will come out of that – that's what the author of The Cloud will say very emphatically – a whole series of other mystics.


So we'll be following them. Also St. Thomas is with us here. So this is the primacy of love, to get into the mystery of God. But I've argued and debated this over the years with Bruno, and it's a lot of fun. He finds this whole love language extremely problematical, and he says he has a difficult time loving something like non-dual unity of knowledge. This frees him up to move into the contemplative area. And so this particular approach just won't do it for lots of people. You won't get a high score if you're one of those people. But think, where are you? Are you more on the track of knowing and wisdom and gnosis? There is a whole school, an eminent school of mystics, and Merton tends towards that. Every now and then he'll bring in love language, but it's almost with a self-conscious forced embarrassment when he does. Certainly Bruno.


Bruno again has his ten theses on what is contemplation. The word agape or caritas or love, how many times does it occur in those ten theses? Not once. Not once. So, that's our problem. So, if you want to just rip out his theses and toss them in the trash, but just think about this. Is this sufficient? Is this constricting? Is this, as they say, reductionistic, simplistic, banal, this is what we'll be exploring in these sessions. What about the combination of the two? No, we want to keep them distinct. I think that's the synonym to a great point with the meaning of contemplation as knowledge of soul art. So we have both.


Yeah, and this might well, we have to wait till the end, this might well be our resolving way. It might be indeed, as we'll see, that they weave in and out the one and the other. And you can get very fancy and ask what ends up at the highest and what comes out of what, the chicken or the egg. But this is very likely what we're going to, but we don't want to reveal that too quickly. So for the moment, we're anti-knowledge and we're in favor of love because that knowledge just leads to gnosticism. And in any case, what we want to do is get to know ourselves, get to know the various faculties inside, the various kind of ways we prefer to go in relating to other people and relating to creation and relating to God and get to have a discerning inner eye of what's happening when stuff is happening inside, what's happening when nothing is happening inside and what way inside leads to God, leads to what we would want to call contemplative


prayer more, what ways get us off, distracted off the path. So what the cloud offers is not a spelled out theological anthropology, a whole theory of the human person, but the cloud of unknowing is written to a young man who wants to know about contemplative prayer. So it's an eminently practical little book. How many, by the way, here, and no shame here or anything else, how many have read The Cloud at least once? Just about everyone. Has anyone not? Shame on you. Well, had you, you would have remembered, brother. Good. We'll pull it out and we'll start working with it again. It's an absolute classic for me to share personally. It's what says it most immediately and effectively, also compared with the latest stuff that's out. This, for me, speaks with a vividness and a power that's quite unique.


But pull it out and then this same author, and we don't know who he is, we now have some real hints, but we're not sure, wrote four or five other treatises. We have those in English also. What is the original language of The Cloud? Middle English. Good for you. This is extremely exciting. This is one of the first things written in our mother tongue. So you don't have to go back to Latin or Greek or Syriac or something. And so if you're really high church, you'll go right to the source. We have two copies in the library of this critical edition of The Cloud, and it's delightful to read in the original Middle English. Arkashian will be here at the weekend. He took a whole course with a professor in Middle English to read it in its Middle English. But it's quite charming. So if you go to The Cloud section in our library, it's an immense section.


We have 10 copies of The Cloud. So if you don't have one and want to check out one, we certainly have one over there, you'll see the different translations. Most recently, the Paulist Press big volume has come out with a marvelous introductory essay critical edition. We're going to be using William Johnson's translation, simply because it's available, it's cheap, and he will be coming here next year to give us our retreat. And he's written a delightful little mysticism of The Cloud of Unknowing. And so if we have questions, we can save them for him, like the relation of love and knowing in The Cloud. But if you want to be really high church, pick out the original and try to work it. Here begineth a book of contemplation, the which is clepid, the cloud of unknowing, in the which a soul is one-ed with God. I think that's lovely, in which the soul is one-ed with God.


So one of Bruno's real efforts is to move beyond duality. And this is very big for Pete Griffiths and Navashikta Nand and all these people. So is that in our subtitle? Did you bring The Cloud? Yeah. Which translation do you have? I have The Penguin. I'm sure it's far inferior. No, that's actually my favorite, but does it have that? This whole in which the soul is one-ed with God, which is about the cloud within, which one is united to God. What? The Cloud of Unknowing, which is about that cloud within, which one is united to God. Anyway, it's fun to go back to the original and see what they're trying to do. And the original isn't that hard. And this is the same with Julian of Norwich. This is the same with Richard Rowell, who precedes them all.


Richard Rowell is one of the very first to write in the English language. It's beautiful that these first texts are about mystical prayer, and so to claim this heritage. And each one of these writers in the 14th century English school is quite different from the other. So it's not as if they're just kind of carbon copies, but one bounces off the other and they even debate among themselves. And so it's a wonderful cluster of marvelous spiritual masters to get in touch with. Anyway, what The Cloud is saying, for heaven's sakes, our primary book isn't this one or that or that. Our primary book is our very humanity to get to know that. First of all, the senses, that's where we start. The five senses are how many there are. So the senses, if you've read our latest newsletter, John has this praise of the senses. We can reach God through the senses.


And they're constantly, you can say, bombarding or flooding our consciousness with data. So all these colors are present to all of us through sight. And if I want to get in touch with these wonderful aromas, then I go to the smell and I can get in touch with the hearing dimension, slurp the water around and feel that the vase is hard but the leaves are soft. All this is a way of my being aware of the world around me and to be in touch with that. And if you think about it, one sense is quite distinct from the other. I see the reds and the greens and the green colors, not with my ears and not with my nose, but specifically with the eyes that have that function and I don't smell through my eyes or I don't hear through my eyes, etc.


Could it be the same with the higher faculties? Is the faculty of the intellect quite distinct from the faculty of the will, for instance? Just as the lower faculty, we may want to dispute this language later on, the lower faculty of smell is quite distinct from the lower faculty of hearing. Think about this. But where these people come from is, yes, the so-called higher spiritual faculties are quite distinct and we want to get to know them in their distinction, then we want to get to know how they interweave one with the other, and especially within us. Again, this isn't just a speculative thing, but this is so we'll know that inner world, so we'll know how to, again, go most directly to God within or above us or at that lowest, deepest level or the center or whatever. Having dealt with this through the senses, I can then remember that around our house in


Laguna where I went to high school, we had all kinds of geraniums and roses like this, so this can cause all those associations and I can remember back how those roses were redder and those geraniums were whiter and things. And then I might get in touch with all kinds of emotions, the joy of those years of high school and then the fears of all the exams, etc. So all that is happening as I go within. I don't even have to be in touch with this anymore or with anything. Just my imagination can take over and my memory, especially my memory here, of those flowers as they evoke other associations in my past, and then roses and roses of funeral and sadness there, deep sadness, and then the roses that we put aside and then they came out with a vile smell after they had dried out, etc. So all that can happen within, just triggered by this.


And that's in fact what's usually happening. We're invaded by sense and then that springs all kinds of associations and memories, then we're off and running. Is that the way to union with God through contemplation? Is it through the senses? Is it through the memory? Then I can think, boy, I would really like to make myself more attractive. There's not that many flowers out front. I could plant a whole series of roses and geraniums. I can start to imagine what isn't even, but what could be. And suddenly I might be there and that might even be realer to me, realer, more real, than this, if I've got a vivid enough imagination and then I'm imagining, I don't know, of whole fields of flowers as they might be in our monastery in the future, up at Annunciation, etc.


So the imagination can take over and that's an extremely powerful faculty, as you may know. And some of the schools of spirituality, when they're talking about meditation, they're particularly talking about utilizing the imagination, the Jesuit school. So I imagine that I'm there in the grotto with the Christ child and Mary is there and the animals and St. Joseph and I can smell the hay and I can hear the baying of the cows and very powerful faculties. Is this the way to go for contemplative prayer? Any comments, questions up to now? What we're doing is exploring these different... So we've got the senses, we've got the emotions, how I can be so depressed by the idea of funerals and it is hard for me to pray. Or I can be so elated even, I just love flowers and so excited about it all and what I might


do in my garden, fear, anger, the whole area of emotions, affectivity, deep affect. Then the imagination, the memory, that can take us within ourselves and we don't even have to go out again. The senses take us outside of ourselves. Then I can start thinking about all this, what is it all about? This is quite charming and beautiful and is the rose a more beautiful flower than the geranium? Are they more beautiful in their way than the ceramic vase? Is it an attractive ceramic vase? Does it succeed as an art statement? Who made it? I can start asking all kinds of questions. What is beauty? Why do I say these flowers are beautiful and then if I leave them without water for a few days and they dry up, then they're no longer beautiful. What is it that they have now that they would lose?


If the vase is beautiful, and we debate that, it's beautiful in a very different way than the flowers are. What is the difference there? Why did the person who made this make it? Did he make it intending it as a vase or was it for pencils and pens? I can start that as engaging the intellect to do all kinds of reflection. At a very practical level, what's the function of this thing down here? Or at a much more speculative level, what is beauty? The Greek philosophers spent a lot of time on why do we say this is beautiful and that isn't? This is a beautiful woman and that other one isn't. It's a beautiful piece, John Cage music, and some romantic dribble isn't beautiful at all. What is it? What is our standard? Where does beauty come from? Is there an original source of beauty that somehow implicitly we're using to measure all these different expressions of beauty, attempts at beauty, all that?


I can get into my own intellect there and so I can think about who is the source of beauty and I can try to aspire to beauty as such. Maybe God. Maybe God is the ultimate source of beauty. Some kind of potter, we presume, made this down below. Would this be handmade or is this... It's handmade. Is it on a wheel or is it... I don't know for sure. But here we're raising kinds of questions. If Scooter was in here, Scooter wouldn't be asking these kinds of questions. Here we're at the level of intellect. Scooter would see and react to the senses, but probably wouldn't imagine how if there were flowers around the doghouse it would be quite nicer. Wouldn't go into imagination, wouldn't go into memory about when it was a little puppy and those beautiful roses down by the garage and that kind of thing. It would be just an immediate encounter and can this be eaten or not.


But we've got all these different ways of relating to this and then different directions we can go from this. And again, which of these directions leads us most into God? Anyway, we're there in our intellect now and so some kind of potter made that vase. Who made the flowers? Is there a creator of the flowers in some kind of analogy the way there's a creator of the vase? Who made the creator of the vase? What was the creator trying to do? Is this the ultimate expression of his or her creative ability, et cetera? What is the ultimate deepest yearning of that potter? We can get into really rather deep philosophical questions if we take it far enough. And again, here we are, what the medievals would call, what St. Thomas Aquinas would call


the exquisitely spiritual faculty of intellect that, again, that Scooter or Buddy or even Elizabeth couldn't aspire to, Elizabeth the cat. I'm not talking about Her Majesty who would be able to do that kind of thing. So is this the way to God? Is this the chosen faculty to God, the intellect, whose fruit is understanding, maybe practical understanding? How is this made? On a wheel or through coil or maybe much more through speculative understanding, maybe even through the ultimate of wisdom. If you read Bruno, what he seems to be saying implicitly, it's not that clear, unfortunately, but he seems to be saying the royal path to God is through knowledge, which is what? Is the fruit of this spiritual faculty of the understanding. Now, presumably he's not saying, if I think hard enough, I'll get to God.


Well, what on earth is he saying? But the cloud wants us to ask these questions. We have these different gifts, faculties, capacities inside. Again, how do we get to God? So let's at this point have our first handout and see kind of the approach of the cloud. First is the title page, so you can put that in because we always want to honestly acknowledge where things are from. So this is, again, from this image edition, let me write that up here somewhere, of the cloud, rendered by William Johnson, let's see, let's wait a minute, a second here, I'll accept that, and the first one up here in this house is from William Johnson. Then we'll look at this one chapter about the different, it's a first sketch, the different faculties, the different levels. Now, I punched holes here so you can put this in the same binder, yes, poor baby, what didn't


you get, the title page or the, do we have an extra title page? So we've all got what we should have. So we're there on page 134, we're jumping to the middle, again, it's written as a practical treatise, so it's not systematic, as you might find in St. Thomas Aquinas or something. Do we all have a copy of page 134, 135? No, no, you've got to have it. Are you suggesting also that the majestic model is no meaning? Yeah, I had to scratch that out, that's more of a distraction than anything else. We may be able to recover to the end, but only after doing a lot of this.


So your handouts have the three holes, you can just put it in the binder, I put it in front of all this other stuff, because it would tend to clarify that other stuff. So let's look at chapter 67, that ignorance of the spirit's working powers may easily lead to error in misunderstanding instruction about contemplation, how a person is made almost divine through grace. So those are two quite different themes, and we'll find that in each chapter there's a little bit of everything, as in a letter of St. Paul or something. Whenever you get a practical document, it isn't clearly logical, starting from premises and then conclusions, and it's jumping around according to the practical applicability. But often, suddenly, you've got some real theology there, at least implicitly. And the scholars who have reconstructed who the author of the cloud might be, he was intentionally, by the way, anonymous, he didn't want to get known, he didn't want to get into the ego


of authorship and all that. But anyway, he's obviously a trained theologian, and he is in the line that will culminate in a Thomas Aquinas, for instance. Thomas Aquinas indeed precedes him. So for Thomas Aquinas also would agree with this, as we'll see later, that is the primacy of love over knowledge, the primacy of, as we'll see, the will over the intellect. So are we at chapter 67 there? My dear friend and God, so this is addressed directly to this young man, but obviously he has a much wider audience in mind also. See what liabilities we are burdened with on account of original sin. Is it any wonder that we are blind and easily deceived in understanding the spiritual meaning of certain expressions, especially if we are also ignorant of our own faculties and the way they function? So the royal way to get to know God in a deep way is to get to know ourselves better.


Explore the self. There's a wonderful phrase in Augustine, I seek only two things, to know you, O God, and to know myself, nothing else, absolutely nothing else. So this is kind of the way. Those times that you are occupied with material things, no matter how good in themselves, you must realize that you are occupied with that which is exterior to you and beneath you in the hierarchy of nature. Now there's some big presuppositions here in terms of metaphysics and theology and human beings. So you might want to contest this, we might want to come back to this. But so I'm involved with the flowers in the space, that's out there. And I got to have my eyes open to see it and I got to have my fingers out there to feel it, etc. That's out there. At other times, you will be introspectively absorbed in the subtle variations of your


consciousness, whereas you grow in self-knowledge and human perfection, your spiritual faculties will be active in what affects your spiritual development. This is, again, beyond the level of what the flowers can sense or feel or what even the animals can sense or feel. This is why they call them the spiritual faculties. The good habits you acquire, the bad ones you conquer in your relationship with others. And sometimes, such times, you are involved with what is interior to you and par with you as a, uh-oh, we want to say here, human person. So I go back to the gift that I remember from associations with flowers. A woman I knew well who was a mother, she said that her little kid once came in and offered her this bouquet of dandelions and somehow that meant so much more to her than this dozen roses that this other guy had sent her. Why? What is it?


That kind of thing. So that kind of reflection regarding flowers is exquisitely human and spiritual and that we can do with our eyes closed, that for concentration, to get into that mysterious world which can take me to other places way back when, maybe poetry about flowers that comes out of the 12th century, et cetera, or it can project me into the future. It can project me into worlds that may never be. That's the spiritual faculties. But there will come a time when your mind is free of involvement with anything material or spiritual. That's an incredible thing. We're not even going to be tied to spiritual themes and totally taken up with the being of God himself. This is the contemplative work I have been describing in this book. And at such times you transcend yourself, becoming almost divine, though you remain beneath God. So there we are.


So to think about this, let's go back. Does everyone accept everything that's here? Is this, this is what we're trying to suggest in this drawing. He's saying, I want you to ascend then. Ascend to the highest summit of the spirit. Then he immediately says in a delightful chapter, for God's sake, don't take this geographically. It's not as if I get inside and I try to strain my imagination up to the top of my skull or something. So he says you can just as well talk about going to the deepest level of the spirit. Or you can talk about going to the innermost center of the spirit. That's how we can recover Father Bruno's rather arid design there. He was fixated on it is a matter of going from the more peripheral and outer to the center or going from the lower to the summit. Or going from the merely superficial down to the depths.


Whichever image works best for you. We'll be working through these sessions with the mountain image. It's, I think, archetypical. It's a classic in the mystical literature. St. John the Cross talks about the ascent of Mount Carmel. And every religion, when you think about it, has its holy mountains. The whole idea of ascending as pilgrim. If you think of the holy mountains in the Old Testament and the New. So I think that's his favorite. Coming from Colorado and the Rockies. That's what I like most. But if you like most the going to the center, that's the whole business of centering prayer. John, what's his name? Father John? He said that the whole center. No, I'm sorry. It's Father Pennington who said that their whole thing about centering prayer is simply the cloud of unknowing repackaged. They found the whole image of going to the center more helpful than the image of ascending


the mount. I find that, as I say, a bit arid. It looks like a bomb site or something. Whereas this, if you think of Cone Peak, etc., is much more archetypical. But work with what is most helpful to yourself. Yes, I guess one part I think that's missing, maybe, in the cloud is the incarnational factor that perhaps once one works through all the senses, the emotion, imagination, memory, intellect, and will and acts on love and enters into the cloud, then it would seem that one has gone from, I don't believe he says that, from the human transcends into the divine. But in an incarnational way, it would seem that then the divine wants to come back into the human or back into the center. It's almost like you're going from your center into something out there that then, I would


think, wants to come into the center. So that it's a fulfillment kind of thing, where the divine reaching to the human and the human reaching to the divine, and they're both embracing each other in the center. That's a problem. That's perhaps missing in the cloud. Going from the human to the divine, but what about the divine coming into the human? Absolutely. The danger here is a kind of, for instance, a denigrating of the senses. If you want to recover the senses, again, read our latest newsletter where Father John writes about the glories of the senses as vehicles to beauty and to God. We got at least one that is kind of appalled, because that's not traditional language. But do we now need to recover that as we're getting a fuller sense of body, of incarnation? What about the emotions? Are they denigrated here? He doesn't talk about the emotions. I put them in, too. But that's an extremely important dimension, as we know in our whole psychological age,


the whole deep affectivity realm. If I'm so into depression or fear or anger, I can't serenely ascend up above. What about imagination? Not as something to be got beyond. It's the same with memory, et cetera, and intellect, et cetera. So, yeah, the problem with this is it's hierarchical. It can get very much like the ladder. It can be a glorified kind of expanded ladder image where we have to get from the lower to the higher, leaving the lower behind. We get ever more disincarnate and kind of purely spiritual. That's the danger. And it would seem to want to locate the divinity in this mysterious cloud at the summit. But if God is love, God is down here. God is here, here, here, everywhere. So it's an image that if—and I think the cloud would be the first to say this—if you take it too literalistically or pictorially, you get into real problems.


We had a friend, a young monk here years ago, who read the literature about suppressing the senses and the imagination. So he sat down and grit his teeth, and he was just trying to destroy any imagination within or any thought within so that then God would just swoop in, et cetera. And he almost—thank God he shared what he was trying to do, so we intervened to ask him to mellow out. That can be a very dangerous way. But yeah, this could be implicitly neoplatonic and all that. How can we recover the possible validity of this? Or can we? Yes. Or did you want to speak to another? I'm related to the problem of the cloud is somehow deficient in the incarnational aspect. It's not only—yeah, it's as awesome as its merit.


And in one book, the author cannot say everything. I mean, he's stressing one point, but he leaves others to stress some other points. For example, a serious defect according to Sumner's theme, at the end, the place of Jesus, the incarnate world, he doesn't deny the importance and centrality of Jesus. But also at the same time, it seems—we shall see that as we go on—the place of Christ doesn't appear really central in his mysticism. So that's a criticism by some authors. And I think William Johnson is also trying to discuss that or trying to defend that. He has some defense on that. Defense of the cloud. Defense of the cloud. That's good. Yes. So I think, as you said, people like Basil Pennington promoting centering prayer, and they say it would be a cloud undoing in a new package.


But some other spiritual masters would add another traditional, classical aspect, combine it with the cloud, namely Jesus' prayer. That's a monastic tradition. Putting the two together to present a way of contemplative prayer to our contemporary men and people. And I think that in Jesus' prayer, certainly you have a very strong incarnation, both in the sense of the human person, the whole body and soul, and the mystery of incarnation of Jesus Christ is very much present. Maybe the two can be complementary. Two methods can be complementary to one another. I think your point certainly dovetails with his. If you want an anthropology that's also respecting the senses, man, that's also, as he said, based on incarnation. It's not that we, you know, climb up there through.


It's that God comes to us and comes to us specifically as a human being who suffered and grieved and was tired and nailed to a cross, et cetera. So that whole area. Could this just be Buddhist? Could this just, is this Christian? And some have argued that. Progoth has a book where he says, the cloud isn't intrinsically Christian. It could be Buddhist. It could be Hindu. Then who's the famous Benedictine rabbit who says, John of the Cross isn't intrinsically Christian. He's like a sponge. You can squeeze Chapman. You can squeeze out the Christian water and absorb it with Buddhist water. It's just an outer structure. So I think all the objections raised here against the cloud, I think, would even more emphatically have to be raised, again, say, to the ascent of Mount Carmel, that work, or to Pseudo-Dionysius, or to that whole current of apophatic mysticism in its writing


about what we're to do and who we are and where we go, et cetera. Can we defend this as not necessarily, can we insist that this is intrinsically Christian, that this does safeguard and affirm the fully incarnational incenses and all that? Who wants to defend this? Well, in one sense, I do want to defend it. He does say you start with, even here, you start with self-knowledge. It's just that he sort of raises and then goes above that. Even though you start with that, it's like you have to come full circle. Or even what Augustine would say, to know God is to know oneself. God is the most intimate of who I am. So it's like, I guess Brenner would say, it's where you start is where you end, where you end is where you start. It's not dual. Although just the image makes it look like it's that ladder of climbing rather than


descent into the one stop, which is where it ends. Doesn't the author of The Cloud have a very strong notion of condescending grace, though it's really God's work in us that's doing all of this? Absolutely. And also the insistence on the primacy of love itself is already an incarnational thing. It's not a Gnostic thing, it's just a method. I think we can recover also in these terms the exquisitely Christian character of this. This is why people like William Johnson, etc., were appalled that the thesis broke off. It's inconceivable that the author of The Cloud could have been kind of a New Age chap who was tacking on a few Christian terms, was basically Zen or something. No, he was all the way a Christian contemplative monk. I think they're saying now probably a Carthusian. But he presupposed the whole sacramental life, he presupposed body, presupposed the beauty


of nature, as certainly does John of the Cross and Teresa, etc., etc. What they're talking about is in this specific moment of what Merton and Bruno sometimes talk about as the moment, this most mysterious moment of direct experience. Then he goes on to say, it's not just an isolated experience, but somehow able to be present in every part of our life in a participatory way, so it's shared out in other moments. Certainly there can be a contemplative dimension of my encountering the flowers we see in the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, or my thinking into the past. Gide, memories of, what is it? Oh, you're thinking of Proust. Proust, yeah. We're at this incredible capacity, even from an aroma, to go into the intimacy of the love of the mother for the taste and all that.


Eat a cookie. Yeah. So all of this, any of the divine, because God is everywhere, but is there a special moment, it's the kind of moment that we give expression to after Vespers when we go in there, absolute silence. Then we're not saying words, we're not doing things, just seated there, usually with eyes. We're not presumably doing discursive stuff. As he says, it's about that work. And then as that becomes hopefully participated through the day, then we recover and we rejoice in the senses. He goes into the cloud, not because he's against the people on the base, or he doesn't like the moments of celebration with the food and the dancing, et cetera, but somehow you need to go into that area of just silence and the ineffable and the apophatic, and you don't


do it by whipping up the senses and singing and shouting and doing all kinds of emotional stuff, but by a silencing. This is the whole thing of Evagrius. This is the whole thing of origin, remember Apatheia and all that business. So this is exquisitely Christian and in a specific moment, but then wants to be loving for all the rest, wants to become incarnate in all the rest. Can that make it acceptable? And this is what Jesus does when he what? He goes into the top of the mount. Whether it's Mount Carmel or the Mount of the Ascension, somehow that's archetypical of the summit. So that then, from the summit, as Moses descends, as Jesus descends, that's what I'm trying to go for. Remember the Mount of the Transfiguration, and suddenly they're just zapped by overwhelming


light, and they want to stay there. No, they have to descend, and they have to get back into the whole thing, and suddenly the whole thing is different. It's now, hopefully it has this paschal light from within. But you need that Mount Tabor experience, that transfiguration experience, what our Eastern fathers and mothers would call the Taboric light, divinization, so that we can be fully human. So it's not an either-or. And as he stresses, this is just one moment. It's not that throughout the whole day we're straining to not have anything to do with the senses and nothing to do with interpersonal relations and sacraments and service of the poor, all these other dimensions that need to be added. But this can be, again, a moment, a heart of the matter, or the summit, or the deepest level out of which all the rest receives a new life and a new light, etc.


Is that acceptable, tentatively? All right, let's go on from there, then. Where are we? Any other questions about this quote? So it's in this sense of this hierarchy of being he's talking about. If I'm walking down the road and there's a dirt clod there, I can start kicking it for fun and not feel all kinds of scruples. It's slightly different if I go over to Father Ehret's rosebush and start kicking that than just destroying it. Something, I'm at a different level of being, and then if there's a little pussycat in the road and I start kicking that, that's much more serious. And if there's a little baby in the road and I start kicking that, that's it. So we just presuppose, as good Catholics, this chain of being, this hierarchy of truths, this hierarchy of values. And if we want to go very contemporary, Teilhard recovers this hierarchy in terms just of evolution.


There are higher levels of neurological complexity, of consciousness, of self-consciousness, etc., so that any scientist will talk about lesser levels of evolution and higher levels of evolution. So we're not getting into a kind of an alienating hierarchy here. Maybe this can be defended. But we're realizing that God isn't this pot. And I can do a lot with this pot by feeling it and seeing it and hearing it. But God is at a—I need to use this language—higher level. Maybe we'll say God is encountered through the pot, in the heart of the pot, and in the encounter with the pot. That's fine. But if I want to encounter God precisely as mystery, infinitely other than that pot, there might be something to this contemplative practice that will then enable me to then


again go back to the pot and go back to the pussycats and the flowers and the whole thing in a new way and discover the divine dimension in all of them. So in that sense, can we accept this model? For your homework, think about all the sacred mountains in the Old Testament and the New and in other religions, if you're into that. We have some beautiful books over in the library about sacred mountains. Fascinating stuff. Oh, I meant to bring a quote from the Native American Indians about the sacred mountain. You always look to the summit of the mountain, the chief. I'll try to look that up. So that's what homework has said. I think this is one of the images we should claim as we get into also, if we want to go visual and archetypical and cone peak here, I think is a beautiful thing. And we're just on the edge here of the Los Padres mountains.


And the other archetypical image, which is very complimentary, we want to claim is the ocean. And that's got a surface. And then you go down, down, down to deeper, deeper levels. Whichever works best for you. But we've got both. As I say, the cloud just assumes the mountains, which might also say something about the place of the cloud. Others would use water imagery to go beneath the surface to the deep, silent depths, this kind of thing. But think about this again. Think about what image most nourishes you. And then again, as your homework, get in touch with these different faculties inside. We didn't even discuss much this final one, which is the will. After I've worked, I determined now I'm going to focus on my seeing this part. And then I determined with my will, now I'm going to think about feeling it. And I'm going to think about getting a sound dimension out of it. That's a very interesting, deep level of my personality, which is the will.


And now I'm going to start focusing on the emotional. What does the rose do again in terms of deep affect? And now with my will, I'm going to get into some memories. And with my will, I'm going to do some imagining. My will, I'm going to start doing some theology now. As the act of the senses is to bring in the sense data, as the act of the memory is to bring back specific recollections from the past, the act of the imagination is to image the future or what might never even be, flying horses and things. As the act of the intellect is this understanding of that, so the act of the will, I can have very practical acts. I'm going to pick up this and I'm going to take these steps. According to this theology, the highest act of the will is love. We want to look at whatever that means. And that act, again, will get us deeper into the ineffable, will help us to cleave to the


unknowable God when the intellect fails. So that, again, the love, and we're not talking here about love at a sentimental level or neurotic level or romantic level. We're talking about love in kind of a tough New Testament agapic level. So we'll need here to do a whole theology of love, which will hopefully not just be a head thing, but which will be wanting to bring us into the heart of the cloud. Think of all the different dimensions of love. There is romantic love, but there's also filial love, the love of a child for the parent. This is obviously a very important image in Scripture as we pray our Father every day. And the paternal love that's presupposed there, the filial love that I want to express, it's a relational thing. This was absolutely central for Jesus, the Abba love experience. Anyway, we want to look at the whole range of possible love experiences, how each one


of them can be a way of going deeper into the cloud and then experiencing my relation with others, friendship, love. How does celibacy come in here? Am I truncating the fullness of human love by this celibacy thing? Or is there a way that the celibate has of getting into the cloud? It's really kind of special. Anyway, all this stuff is a homework assignment for next week. And we'll pass out also a tentative outline, not that we're going to do everything on this outline for the class. But this, if we had three years to give to this topic, this is some of the dimensions of our theme that we would want to look at. Hopefully, there'll be a link. And again, all this is to challenge you. How would you outline your class on contemplative prayer? This is obviously quite a different approach than Bruno's.


This is quite better and solid and safer. But to see the difference and to, again, think, well, how would you do it? What approach best helps you? Amen. Any last discussion problems? Yes? Good question. We often mean by love. You talk about puppy love. We talk about, oh, I just love that person. Is that what we mean? If it's an emotion, we're down there, so to speak. So presumably, is that what Jesus is talking about when he says, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Love your neighbor as yourself. And then when he comes up with the outrageous demands that you love your enemy. But my enemy is someone with whom I perhaps have lots of emotional problems. But I'm to love them. But are we going to just root out love from any emotion?


What are we going to do there? So a big thing is, what is the relation of love to emotions, to arrows, to imagination, memory, intellect, et cetera? Why don't we think of Agape and love as completely self-giving without gasping back? Agape is defined by the gospel, and love is defined by the gospel. So that, in a sense, like automatic music and emotion, because emotion has a kind of payoff, you know, senses have a kind of payoff. But Agape is that total outpouring without gasping back. There's a famous Lutheran theologian, a dreadful guy, named Nigel, and his book... NY. NY? NY2, yeah.


A dreadful name. You know, I love you. He's worse than Bruno, actually. He's got to go arrows and Agape, and he opposes them, and precisely in those terms. So emotional love is absolutely... It's the enemy of Christian love, which is Agape. Arrows is me loving the other for what I get out of it. It's need love. It's the love that wants that other person for all the pleasure I can get out of it. That's the absolute opposite of Agape love, which is, as you say, pure gift love, pure sacrificial. It's Jesus on the cross. It's loving your enemy, etc. NY. I'm not saying that. That's a very narrow definition of arrow. That's right. But he goes miles with it. He's horrified by the whole medieval mystical tradition, because what we've gotten is


something like the cloud, and way back to Augustine, etc., is a confusing and a mixing up of all of this. So he wants the pure model of opposition. So it's a powerful thesis, and he can make a lot of argument that there is a radicalness to Agape that's quite different from, oh, boy, she turns me on, kind of thing. So we want to look at all that. What do we mean by love here? It might turn out to be something entirely other than what we normally mean by the word, or it may mean that is Eros opposed to Agape, or does Eros find its fulfillment in Agape? These are all the questions we're going to have to ask, not just as head stuff, but so we can do this, so that we can have a loving and cleaving to God that's truly Christian and not terribly pagan, as Nygrim would be concerned.


What Catholicism is doing is always trying to drag the gospel into paganism, into just Eros, what we can get out of it. We're contemplatives because there's more grace here, and we're closer to God, and we get more divinized. That has nothing to do with the gospel, Nygrim would say. It's just pre-Christian. It's non-Christian. So that's a big issue. So work that out. We'll have the next class, which I think won't be Tuesday, but Wednesday of next week, and then P.D. will shift his diversity. Thank you.