Contemplative Prayer

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Contemplative Prayer Class

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And this is the last section of Martin's The Inner Experience. As I mentioned last time, it continues, actually, with the last couple of points of Part 7, because he's talking about the contemplative life in the world today and what's different about that. So we, however, didn't have time last time to cover these first two sections, which I would have liked to do, to leave us free to talk about the last part. Before we begin to go through this, I wanted to make a couple of broader observations, just in case they get squeezed out at the end. It would be nice to have an overview of what we've been talking about and put it into a context, two kinds of context. One of them we've already tried to do, that's the theological context. How do we look at contemplation in the light of our whole Christian vision? And that means not just a vision of Christianity, but a vision of humanity, a vision of the


cosmos of creation. So we've been helped to do that by Martin, and also by Rana and a couple of other people. But the other context that we would like to look at our study in is the historical context. And Martin begins to do that in this last section. It's very significant that he does. It's very significant that his last issue here, his last point, and he leaves it sort of open-ended, I think, is the relationship between contemplation and history. Has anything changed? Has anything changed in the contemplative experience, actually, let us say, of Christians in our tradition? I think it has, and we need to be able to ask ourselves what that is, and whether it's an essential change, or to what degree it's intrinsic to the contemplative experience. Is it just a difference in interpretation, or is it an actual difference in the experience? I think there's also a difference in the experience. Another one who has studied this question is Karl Rahner.


In fact, he's written quite a bit about the experience of God today. And he comes towards it with a very strong theological, even philosophical, perspective. So he's not talking so much about empirical evidence, that is, of experience, even though he is talking about that, but what he's really doing is making a thesis, a proposal, that there is a simple, a very simple experience of God, which is the essential and universal experience of God. There's one article of Rahner's which is especially precious in that regard. It's called The Experience of God Today. It's in Theological Investigations, No. 11. I couldn't find that yesterday. It's probably because I already have it out. I couldn't find it in the library. But I have a copy of it, and if there's time I'll talk about that a little bit. But this is in the line of what we've heard from Rahner before, that this basic experience of God is the presence of mystery, the mystery which is God, which is infinitely close to


us, and yet infinitely ungraspable, and which we experience as our own transcendence, our own movement into transcendence, and which we experience more in its purity and in its power when we arrive at our own limits, when we arrive at moments of limitation, when we're brought sharply up against our own boundary lines, whether it be in the shadow of death or some very searching decision that we have to make, or some loss, or in the experience of love, and a number of other examples. So that's one approach to this question, which I think is a valid approach. But it seems to me also that if you read the writings of the Spanish mystics of the 16th century, of Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, you get a very different picture of the mystical life or the contemplative life than what is experienced today. I think there's a lot more extraordinary experience. I think it's much more vertical than is our experience of today.


And how is that possible? First of all, is it possible that we've been thinking of contemplation in a too individualistic way, and that actually we're participating in something like a communal experience on an invisible level? What I mean is that our experience of God is our experience of God in the whole of humanity and in the church, and in a body which itself is on a journey. In other words, there's a collective factor, a communal factor, in our experience of God. People have written about, for instance, a collective dark night of the soul in our time. And you remember, Merton, I think it was in section 6, says that our contemplative experience today can't be the same as that of the Fathers, because we live in the time of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, and things like that. There's going to be a dark shadow in our contemplation. In another place, maybe the end of the same section, he said that we can't expect wonderful


things in our interior life, because man has lost the capacity for wondering at God and at the things of God, because man is full of wonder and is addicted to wonder at the, as it were, the wonders of the beast. At that point he gets a little bit apocalyptic sounding. But the idea that something has happened in human consciousness, at least in the West, which has radically changed our relationship to contemplative experience, that, and the fact, look at it from another angle, that the church and the Western humanity is going through a particular experience which may be described, in this sense, as an experience of darkness. Now, what I'm insisting on is not the darkness, but the communal character of it. The fact is that our individual contemplative experience is not an absolute standing by itself, but is, from one perspective, part of something else, which is experienced by a larger body. And therefore, it doesn't respond to abstract structures that are erected at a certain time,


because the Holy Spirit is acting differently at another time, and the whole church, or the whole of humanity, is experiencing something different at another point in history. Is it possible that we can say that? One thing that is concerned here is the movement from a relative state of passivity of the human person with regard to nature, with regard to the cosmos, to the world, to creation, let us say, to an active position of the human person with respect to creation, so that the human person becomes, or humanity at least, becomes co-creator in some way. Now, we see this in science and technology. In other words, humanity begins to transform the world, at least the surface of the world. We may be very ambivalent about the value of that, the depth of that, but the fact of it can't be denied. Now, does that have anything to do with our experience, our contemplative experience, our experience of God? At least, I believe it does in this respect, that as we become more rational, more analytical, more critical, the experience of God has to become, in some sense, more subtle, more crafty,


more invisible, more of an unknowing, as our knowing becomes more aggressive, more bold, more imperialistic, in a sense, more dominating. So that's, I think, Ronald talks about that too. And as it were, the landscape of mysticism itself changes as this process happens. Now, not everybody is participating to the same extent in that process, obviously, but I think it has an effect, and it has an effect through this communal dimension we were talking about. Yes? Interesting your points last week of Merton. On the other hand, Enigman, you talked about the whole television and media culture, which kind of pulls us down into a passivity, it's simply being there instead of the critical, reflective capacity that one sees in a medieval theologian or other, so it's a curious thing. Either one of us is probably going to change the situation, change our receptivity, and


either one of them can change it in apparently a negative way. The TV addiction thing, certainly in a negative way. As he says, it's a pseudo-contemplation, which can effectively totally block, probably, actual contemplation, except for some great intervention of God. The other dimension is this, that if there's a change in the, what would you call it, I hate that word, phenomenology, because it's got too many syllables, but if there's a change in the profile of mystical experience, of contemplative experience, so that the profile is lower, so that the experience is more ordinary, so that it sort of disappears into the ground, this is related to the canonical in another way. It's related in the sense that as we become poorer with respect to even our interior experience, notice we become less exalted, we become less, what would you say, less in a sense confident of our own, even, what would you say, our own identity in a certain sense.


A certain level of identity begins to be chewed away. For instance, the sense of superiority of the Catholic, of the Christian, okay? Now, what's happening there is that we're beginning to experience solidarity with all of humanity through impoverishment, which has its, what would you call it, anticipation in the Old Testament, doesn't it, in the exile of the Jewish people, for instance. When they had the temple, when they had Jerusalem, when they had all that glory, they were the chosen people of God, then the temple is destroyed and they're in captivity in another land where they see the glory actually is of another imperial power, and they're just nobody there. That's another experience, isn't it? And remember, the wisdom tradition tends to grow up at about that time, about the time of exile and later. So part of this change in the experience of contemplation, I think, is a movement into


solidarity with all of humanity, so that our experience has no higher profile than the rest of the experience of human people. Now, this is not an absolute, obviously, but this is what it seems to me Rahner is saying. In fact, I'm sure that's what he's saying. And also what Merton seems to be indicating sometimes. Notice that in the first two sections of Section 8 here, the first two parts, he's talking about the little brothers of Jesus and Charles de Foucault, who just go out into, they go out into the world, but Foucault went out into a non-Christian people, into a pagan people, and a poor people, and just lived there. Just that presence among humanity, and among the outsiders, in a diaspora situation, the presence of those who are utterly unwashed, in some sense. To be present among them. Now that's expressing a sense of solidarity, which from the other side, I think, becomes an experience in the change of our profile, as I say, of contemplative experience.


And then he talks about father Manchanada, and actually Shantivanam, the ashram, which is also a diaspora experience, among others, who in a sense have a more highly developed contemplative life than we do, at least at this time. It's another experience of solidarity, and of a real change in the relationship between inside and outside, between, let us say, Christian or Catholic contemplatives, and other religions, and other humanity in general, even non-contemplative, ordinary people and poor people. So there's a very strong lowering of the vertical, because if you read Saint Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, you get the feeling this is it. I mean, this, here at the heart of Catholicism, is the ultimate, the supreme experience of union with God, of all of humanity. This is the place to be. And one is attracted to that by, as it were, the magnetism of the center, and wants nothing


but that, and considers everything outside to be inferior. Well, we're in a radically different position today, and I think there's a reason for that. The vertical is coming down and the horizontal is moving up. And it's important for us to realize that, because somehow it's got a lot to do with vocation, with what God wants from the Church at this particular time. Yes? Is there, implicit in that, is there any benefit, then, to knowledge of Christ? Oh, yes. Yeah. Definitely. Well, if we're... I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Yeah. If our experience is no deeper than anybody else's that we're sharing, then... Yeah, when we talk about experience there, the question you raise is important. When we talk about experience, hmm... First of all, I'm talking about the exalted experiences, let us say, of contemplation, okay? Now, in the end, are those what connect us to God?


Are those what constitute salvation, or fulfillment, or realization in the ultimate sense? And I think the answer is largely no. It's not our experience that is the end. It's something else, which for us is connected with faith, which for us is faith, and ultimately is love. Okay? So there's a very sharp knife that cuts between the essence, which is faith and love, and any kind of experience, any kind of... even the highest and apparently deepest mystical experience. Okay? But it's not necessarily... In a sense, the contemplative experience, the unitive experience, is that which is our bridge to eternal life and salvation? Yes or no? No. No, I don't think so. I think you can say the basic unitive experience, which is like the ground of consciousness,


and the faith which is rooted in that, and which is our voluntary, or you say, picking up of that, our voluntary relationship to that ground of consciousness through the act of faith and love. That is, okay, that's it. But not the unitive experience itself, in the sense of the contemplative experience. That's a help, but... I mean the unitive experience in the broadest sense. Like a sacramental experience can be an unitive experience. Like an experience of transcendent love can be an unitive experience. I'm making all those as equivalent to the contemplative experience. Otherwise, why the priority of the contemplative life? Yes. Is it because those things help? Because those things are building something which is deeper than those things themselves? The essential distinction is between experience and between reality, okay? Between ultimately reality, let us say. So what Rahner would say is that those things are still accidental.


But the ultimate reality is deeper than those things. Valuable as they are, and they're valuable largely because they build faith, because they give us a push, because they help us to intensify what is actually at the center, which is a union with God which is deeper than experience. Which doesn't mean that those things are to be dismissed at all. They're precious and we nearly make them a goal of life. It's just that between those things, between absolutizing those experiences, and what we can absolutize, there's a gulf. There's a discontinuity, there's a transcendence. We have to be able to see the real thing somehow transcending any experience of our own. But let me... And then, you know, there's a self-verifying experience, just the same, okay, which doesn't need to be dismissed. And when that's happened, it's almost like it goes beyond the...


out of the theology classroom, in a sense. It's just self-verifying. It's a kiss or an embrace, or it's a kind of, what would you call it, self-authenticating experience which puts a permanent stamp in you which nothing can contradict, okay? So there's always an exception to what we're saying. And that's the exception. Another exception is this relationship with Christ. Now, when we talk about the experience as being the same as that of somebody outside, that's not quite true. Because the experience of Christ, the faith in Christ, has something distinctive about it which is not just an act, but is also an experience, right? Yeah, but I don't mean experience... I might be way over my head here. But I don't mean experience so much as a subjective phenomenon as the unit to... somehow unity with the objective reality. That love, prayer, death, at that point when they're all equivalent.


You know what I mean? So like Beat said once, the only thing akin to the contemplative life is falling in love. Because you've come out of it yourself. So I'm not making that equivalent. I mean, isn't the priority of the contemplative life for us because we're hoping for that objective unit of experience? Well, I'm afraid to use the word experience now because you're using that subjective phenomenon. Well, there is an experience which has an objective... an experience of something objective. I don't like the word objective because we split it into these two possibilities and it's really deeper than that, and fuller than that. But the thing I'm pushing now is this difference between experience and especially any kind of extraordinary experience and the essence. And the essence being that which is accessible to everybody. So I'm sort of barking from Rahner's side of the street at this point.


We could go over to the other side of the street and talk about the self-authenticating experience and the fact that it's possible to experience union, a kind of metaphysical union. At some point, isn't it necessary to say as Christians that we have access to that, but we only have access to Christ? Be it the anonymous Christian or not. Okay, I didn't quite follow. Be it the anonymous Christian or not. Yes. I mean, that's... Where does Christ fit into this whole pattern? Well, that's what I say. We have to be careful about making our experience inside exactly the same as the experience outside. There's a difference. Or saying that there's no experience that matters inside that's not also outside. Because there is, and that, for instance, is the experience of Christ. So whenever you take a theological principle like that and make an absolute out of it, you're going to have to add something, a corrective afterwards, because you've amputated part of the truth. And that's true in this case too.


In other words, there's something unique about the recognition of Christ and the connection that's made with Christ through faith, which is also experiential. And yet every particular experience of that can go into the ground and disappear from you. It's something that's in you and which may sometimes be in the world of experience and sometimes disappear right out of the world of experience. So you have nothing but that faith. But faith itself, in a sense, is partly experiential. So... Yeah, these are difficult things. I'm waiting for Joseph to jump in with the anonymous Christian. Well, we've been talking about the anonymous Christian anonymously, without mentioning it. Because he's the one that has the same essential experience, which for Rana is the acceptance of your life and the acceptance of your death, basically, which is faith. Okay? Which is faith. But it's not faith mediated directly and explicitly through Christ.


Yeah, but I'm saying it's the same tack. Doesn't somebody like, for example, Panikkar take that way? Yeah, Panikkar goes off the edge. Panikkar goes off the edge. Well, I'm going to ask you, where's the edge? Have you seen it? Yeah, the edge is in the role that you give to Christ and your relationship with Christ. And if you read that Rana article, you'll see how that for him builds into this vision. But it's difficult territory, because you can't build one mental structure that holds it all together, so you can look at it at once. You've got to look at this side over here, and then you go over on the other side, and you say, this is also true. You can't move back and forth. But no, there is an experience of Christ, a commitment to Christ, a living relationship with Christ, all of which can somehow be centered in faith, which is, what would you say, different in a quantum way from anything outside, and which is of very great significance,


very great importance. And we'd have to talk about that for a long while to bring out exactly how that's true, I think. But it's obvious to us, you know, it's obvious to us, and yet it's hard to sum it up in a few words. There's a particular presence, I believe, a qualified presence of the Holy Spirit, too, connected with Christian faith. Remember what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, you worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. The first part of that statement is what I would underline. There's a particular knowledge there, which is central, which is final. I think a very balanced presentation can be found also in Hebrews, on one hand appreciating the Hindu tradition, and at the same time it's so founded on Christianity. Yes, yes. And sometimes I think it's a question


just of the limitation of our understanding. We don't know yet how to get those two things together, but we know they're both true. So we may seem to pretend that we understand how all of this is structured, but we don't. We're working from two sides, and we know both of them are true. So what we have to do is say this, and then come over and make sure we conserve this, and then go back over here and so on, go back and forth. Okay, any other questions before we descend into our Martin section? So he starts out talking about small communities in the world, and particularly, concretely about the little brothers of Jesus. And note that this is, first of all, there's a form of life which is a diaspora. Both Rahner and Merton write about the diaspora church, and Merton writes somewhere about the monk and the diaspora. But the idea was Rahner's. This is a diaspora situation where the monastic community has sacrificed


all of its structures and its image, as it were, and it's almost like Christ among the alien in some way. Not preaching, not communicating the word, not attempting to convert, but just being there. And Merton says down at the bottom of 102, this, of course, is a strictly contemplative view of the Christian life. In other words, whatever is happening is happening at a deeper level than the visible level. And with this goes a particular kind of experience, according to Voynambu, that quote is from him, who is what? The general of the little brothers. That is, together with the disappearance of the external image, there appears in this kind of prayer, and note Merton has selected this quote, a disappearance of the interior image. That is, a disappearance of anything special in the contemplative life.


So you're sharing the external life of poverty and ordinariness, and what would you call it? Outsiderness, in a sense. And you're also sharing the interior experience of that, largely. Although, that's not all of it, obviously. And note that a lot of this didn't come from theory. It came from a kind of interior inspiration, an intuition, an invitation of the spirit, for instance, that sent Charles Foucault out into the desert. You can see how Merton is continually restless within the structure of the large monastery, the highly institutionalized monastery, which gets him anyway. And of course, there were a lot of small community efforts that also fizzled, that started in the 60s. And then he talks about Eastern Christian monasticism, the ashram, about Father Manchanam, especially about Shantivanam. Sister Pasqueline, in her profile of Father B,


has a little section on the beginning of that. Shantivanam, the ashram in Tamil Nadu, dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, had been founded in 1950 by two French priests, Father Jules Manchanam, a diocesan missionary, and Father Henri Le Sto, Abhisikta Nanda, that is, from the Abbey of Kerganan. Father Manchanam arrived in India in 1939, first lived with a bishop and then an erectory in Kalidula, which is only a few miles from here. Only a few miles from Shantivanam, you can ride there on a bicycle. It's the closest to anything like this. I suppose you'd call it a town. And then right across the street from Shantivanam, there's a little village, Tener Povey. If you want to find a bank or a barbershop, you have to go to Kalidula. Only in 1948 did a donor offer a few acres in Trichy. That's the city.


Well, that's the province there. The city in Lakau. Near the Kaveri River, where he and Abhisikta Nanda began worshiping in a tiny chapel that they had built with their own hands in Indian style. That must have been a... Not the chapel that you know. They used English, Sanskrit and Tamil in their liturgies, meeting three times daily for common prayer, using scriptures of the different religions, using the Roman rite themselves. They lived in thatched huts, the real poverty of the poor in India. In 1957, Father Manchanand died in France, where he had gone for surgery. Abhisik stayed on at Shantivanam, but traveled up to the caves in the Himalayas off and on until he asked in 1968 that someone from Kuri Sumla come, and he retired to the north, where he died in Rishikesh in 1973. So Father Bede Griffiths arrived at Shantivanam in 1968 from Kuri Sumla with two other monks. And from then on, the community revolved around him,


and he developed it. Keeping pretty much that same orientation, trying to stay right on the earth. So Merton finds two things in the ashram development. One is another movement out from the highly institutional, big, structured monastery. And the second one is the, would you call it dialogue, or coexistence with an Asian tradition, and specifically here with the Hindu tradition, of course, in the south of India, which he's written extensively about elsewhere. And that ends that discussion of contemplative communities in the world. Yes. No. No. Paris, France. Not Paris, Texas or something like that.


Yeah. Mm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. That's right. That's right. There they seem to be not quite as concerned about, what would you say, leaving behind the image as Merton is. It's a different, what you call, integration of the two sides, because they keep the big church and so on. The liturgical part of their life sounds like it remains within the traditional sort of image.


And the rest of their life is out there. And the fact of being in the city, of course, is a real adventure. One of their sisters, who had lived there for quite a while, was with our sister in New York, so I did talk to her and learn something about them. That's a very important model, you know, for the urban experiment. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Okay. Now we get back to his attempt to say what monasticism has to do with the world and how it exists in the world and what its value is in the world. He's going to end up talking about the world as he's talking about history as well, because the world is a very dynamic, kinetic thing in our time.


So on the middle of page 105, or his 340, he shifts to that. Contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. Now, he goes back to the beginning of the book where that was his thesis, and I think it's a very strong and valid axis for the book. Now here, the two choices. One choice is simply to withdraw and leave the world behind, and that's what he seems to have done in the seven-story mountain at the beginning. And now he's very, let's say, rigorous in his judgment of simple withdrawal from the world, and he contends that now the contemplative is the person who somehow is more engaged with the world, or engaged with it at a deeper level, even in being physically detached from it. And then, well, what's this about? What does the contemplative have to offer? And the rest of his final section here is about that. And a lot of it has to do somehow with insight,


and here he's at a bit of a battle with himself, because he's going to say that the contemplative should have a particular depth of understanding, and then he's going to come back and say, well, it's by his very poverty and unknowing and lack of any special wisdom that that's what's essential to him. So he goes back and forth between those two, and that has something to do with the tension within Merton, and between his special gifts and his vocation, or his way of life, and the monastic ideal in its essence, which is concerned with, as Banachar says, a bliss of simplicity or simple interiority, and the poverty that goes with that. I say simple interiority. Merton does insist that that's not enough, that there has to be some kind of openness towards the world. The book where he wrestles with this at greatest length, I think, is Contemplation in a World of Action. It's a very good book, a very valuable book, written...


This was published posthumously, it seems to me, in 71, something like that, as an introduction by Jean Leclerc. It's after Merton's death, and so he looks back upon Merton's contributions. And it's got articles on the main aspects of this whole issue of monasticism and the world of monasticism in history, which are a very important reading, I think, for a monk at a certain point in his life, not right at the beginning, but after some years, when some of these problems have begun to impinge upon him, or maybe when he begins to become aware that he's forgotten these issues too much and needs to become a little more conscious of them, and the relationship of his monastic life to the world. Now, here he starts talking about a fascinating issue that I mentioned last time, this thing about the wisdom of history, the logos of man's present situation,


as he puts it here, in the middle of 106. And he speaks of Marxism and a kind of Marxist mystique of history, which he says presents a challenge to the Christian. And so I went and ferreted out a couple of other things that Merton wrote about Marxism. One of them is that last talk that he ever gave in Bangkok, and I raised the question, why in heaven's name did he talk about Marxism to a bunch of people who are interested in Eastern Christian monasticism? What's it got to do with Marxism? And another one is the article in Contemplation and the World of Action called, Is the World a Problem? He gets into Marxism there. He says, first of all, he was confronted, just before he went to Asia, he was confronted, they had a meeting there, what did they call it? Center for Democratic...


Do you remember what that is? Center for Democracy or something like that? In Santa Barbara, yeah. A friend of his, I forget the fellow's name, but was one of the officers in that. So he gave a talk down there, and he was confronted by a young man who identified himself as a Marxist and said, well, we're monks too. The implication being that we're more monks than you are. So, Merton accepted the challenge and then had to reflect on what monasticism and Marxism have in common. And the first thing that he comes up with, and of course, he hates Stalinism, he hates the Soviet monster of communism and so on. But he also hates the anti-communist, what would you call it, ideology, which conceals and covers so many sins in the United States. In other words, that whole use of communism as a kind of antichrist in order to achieve other ends, whether by somebody like Senator McCarthy or by any number of politicians,


would justify anything by an anti-communist position. And often calling innocent people communists in some way, in some way punishing them unjustly. He finds, first of all, that both monasticism and Christian monasticism, or any kind, and Marxism are counter-cultural. In some way, they react against the establishment. It's kind of a slim beginning, but there he starts. But then, he says, they have in common that they both want change. They both are discontented with the world as it is, especially the social world, the political world, the economic world. They want to see it change. He says, here the difference comes up, because the Marxist wants to change the structures out in the world, and the monk wants to change himself, wants to change his own heart, wants to arrive at purity of heart. So he puts the interior transformation first, and whatever external transformation second, and maybe doesn't even think about it. And, of course, Merton says that


this is the only way to do it. If you try to do it the other way, it won't work, because the pot's trying to wash itself in some way. I looked around to try to find where this wonderful mystique of history was in Marxism. I couldn't find any. I don't think it's in Karl Marx. It's in the idea of the dialectic. It's Hegel's Hegel. Yeah, it's in Hegel, and it gets into Marxism, okay, but not all the Marxists follow it, especially the Orthodox Marxists. There's a particular breed of existentialist Marxists. Evidently, Mark Hughes is one of them, who follow this line. And I tried to read a bit of that book, The One-Dimensional Man, but I find it completely unreadable. It's so abstract. So, that particular research project was not very successful. Isn't it probably best to say that history is the idea of knowledge of yourself? Well, that's in Hegel, yes.


It seems that that's the sort of mystique that you can subnostically bring yourself into knowledge of that, put yourself up with it. Actually, I think there is something that Christianity can... There's something exciting in that. There's something exciting in a certain interpretation of that, or a certain offspring of that. I'm looking for a Merton quote which says that a little better. Eric Bowman interpreted something like that. Yeah, I think he's got Vogelin behind him. When he starts talking about the American technocrat as a Gnostic and so on, I think he's got Vogelin behind him. Okay, this is from that Contemplation in a World of Action article. He's been talking about the frozen kind of Carolingian structure, as he calls it, of medieval West, medieval Christianity and society. The suggestion that has now most obviously replaced that of the Carolingians is that of Karl Marx.


In this view, history is not finished. It has just reached the point where it may, if we are smart, begin. There is no predetermined divine plan, although, frankly, the messianism in Marx is basically biblical and eschatological. After a long, precarious evolution, matter has reached the point in man where it can become fully aware of itself, take itself in hand, control its own destiny. And now at last, that great seething mass of material forces, the world, will enter upon its true destiny by being raised to a human level. The instruments by which this can be accomplished, technology, cybernetics, are now in our power. But are we in our own power? And so he goes on. So, that idea, I can see where he found the excitement in Marxism there, in that particular idea, which resonates with Teilhard's idea of moving from cosmos to cosmogenesis, remember. When evolution takes off from within itself, no longer just predetermined, but evolution proceeds after


the human person comes on the scene, a sort of co-creator, from within itself, through the human mind and will, through human creativity. Yeah. Some of the Christian theologians who are working as much as possible in the whole childhood history, I see there's Kauffman who teaches at Harvard, etc. They also wrestle with the kind of Marxist-humanist school of Frank Bird and Bertrand Neumarkers. But they say this is just, at the heart of the scripture, you get into the salvation history thing, where Moses doesn't just go up and live in a cave and contemplate through the mantra or something, but gets into the history of the oppression and through a whole series of, leads his people out and changes history and changes them. So it's an interesting thing that it doesn't begin with Marx, but it begins with this whole Judeo-Christian insight that history is radically important, where salvation is happening through,


not just if we're wise enough, but if we're working with this God who's radically in history, moving through history. So it's a kind of an exciting kind of, as you say, even the cosmic side of the cosmos is not just static, that things are happening and we have a responsibility. So that's where, when Martin comes out of this, he comes out with Verdea, who is precisely in that direction. That is, Verdea, who is saying that we've misinterpreted Christianity in terms of a kind of gloomy religion of only salvation and only individual salvation. He's talking about the modern West and medieval West, too, largely. Although he sees a great deal of virtue in the Middle Ages, the conserving, as he says, of creative energies and so on. He doesn't really have a lot of respect for the contemplative thing itself, but the conserving, as he says, and disciplining of creative forces in the Middle Ages. But he says that's a misinterpretation of Christianity


which largely comes partly from Neoplatonism, the kind of verticality of it, but the real Christianity is human creativity emerging in history. That is, the gift to be the image of God by being free and being created in the world. So that's what Martin picks up there when he quotes Verdea. So if you're interested in that kind of thing, he's just a treasure of Verdea, because he's done more of it than anybody else I know. And in contrast with Teilhard, he doesn't talk about the cosmic picture. The focus is smaller. The focus is on the human scene, and specifically on history. He's always analyzing history. The Russians, as he points out, seem to have a great, what would you call it, gift and attraction to a theology of history, partly because they're between East and West. They've still got this, what would you call it, this totality of the mystery of the Eastern Christianity inside them,


and they're confronted with this accelerated history of the West, especially in the past couple of centuries. So between those two, something really happens in them. But evidently that eschatological thing has always been in the Russian soul. Also, if it isn't possible to be unfair to our Western medieval... Let's take a figure like Gregory the Great, who's sometimes called the father of the Middle Ages. He's a man who's truly contemplative, and he's also right in the middle of history. That's right. That's right. He's equally critical of orthodoxy.


In fact, he's looking largely at orthodoxy when he makes these accusations of Christianity. He says that patristic Christianity is simply not enough. And so he really proposes a Christianity of freedom and creativity. He's a Christian, and that's why Matthew Fox, of course, picks him up and quotes him from time to time, even though there's a lot in him that Fox probably wouldn't... Yes? Do you have any awareness of why President Polk is so interested in this reunion with orthodoxy? Does it relate to some of the things that Father was just talking about? I'm not sure. A great passion he has, it seems. Well, partly maybe from his own experience being on that boundary line, you know, of Eastern Europe being brought up there. But partly also, probably, he sees a great stabilizing influence, the weight of tradition, and of theological solidity,


which is in the orthodox tradition. It's got a marvelous... And the stability is so important for him that he probably finds maybe a bottomless foundation of theological stability over there. Which is true, but there's also, obviously, something missing there. He doesn't seem to connect the history with flow as much as the West. Isn't that true? Well, I don't know. When it comes to a place like Latin America, you really see problems. That's the other side. Yeah. I think that... I don't know, it's difficult even to talk about that in this context. It's a big issue, you know. I think sometimes... Humanists who dialogue with the East, they say it's so difficult because so much of it is not doctrinal, but cultural. We just presuppose biblical scholarship, for instance. No criticism. And for them, it's word of God. We presuppose the influence of origin,


even though he was condemned. And for them, origin and divography, they're condemned, so there's no truth in them. It can be, at its worst, very abridged and fixist and triumphalistic thing. At its best, it has a comprehension of the mystery. The luminous, contemplative understanding and experience of the mystery. At its worst, it's simply pre-critical and a kind of fundamentalism all its own. I remember when Innocenzo... Now, he encountered that virginity, and some told him, you're worse than the atheists because you're pretending to be Christian. And others would kneel down and ask for his priestly blessing. So there is that incredible spreading of Gnosticism. Okay. Back from the big picture. So he spent some time


talking about this contemplative vision of history and first of all getting this little spark, this stimulation from outside Christianity and Marxism, and then coming back and finding its roots in Christianity and finding an expression of it in Berdeyev. He was a very powerful, rich writer. He was a Marxist himself, as a matter of fact, in the beginning. Berdeyev. In this way, the Marxist is able to steal from Christianity one of its most potent and characteristic claims, that it has come to divinize the freedom and the spirit of man, of humanity. Christians hearing this for the first time, forgetting that their baptism has a new birth as children of God with a vocation to the highest creative responsibilities, have not understood the hidden implications of this claim made blasphemous only by its separation from its true context. It's interesting, you know, that the psychological doctrine of the shadow that often when you have a particular antipathy


for somebody, it's because you see in that person not only your dark side, but also your unrealized potential. And I think communism has been such a shadow figure, such a, what would you call it, a nemesis, a shadow figure, an ultimate black beast for the Christian West in our time, largely because communism was pushing the buttons of those unrealized potentialities right in Christianity, especially to transcend the static, cultural, social, political, economic structures and become itself. So it stole this light and this fire from Christianity, went off with it, comes back and confronts us with it and is tremendously, deeply disturbing so that Christians find that they have to absolutely demonize everything that has any, any taint of Marxism or communism in it. Wasn't the whole idea of community equality from what you're quoting there, but these great yearnings of the apostolic community


and they take that over and we're appalled in the media of free market communism. Because that's where the change goes, of course, is towards unity, is towards a kind of communion. And then, of course, communism itself becomes a travesty for wherever it comes into power. Okay. And then finally, on the last couple of pages, he attempts to sum up what he believes monasticism has to give to the world or its value for the world and in the world. First of all, he speaks of energy, clarity and peace over on 109. But then at the end, the value that he stresses is freedom. That's where he comes down. Human freedom. And distinguishes two levels of freedom. As Paul does, the freedom of the flesh


and the freedom of the spirit. And says that the monk is supposed to be the witness of this true freedom. Freedom of the deep or true self. Freedom of the spirit in the world. It is the contemplative who keeps this liberty alive in the world. And who shows others obscurely and without realizing it what real freedom means. It's interesting that there should be a vocation to be free. You know, a vocation. And this is, he seems to, in the end, give more importance to this, doesn't he? Than to the knowledge, the penetration of reality, the understanding of history and so on. In the end, the fundamental value is freedom. Now freedom for him, remember, equates with that unity of the human person that he was talking about in the beginning. It's not as if those are two different things. Freedom is the quality, is the sphere, is the movement of that true self or unified person, person who is one.


Okay, any questions? Yes. I find this really interesting coming later in his life that he's saying this about freedom because in the beginning he had so much freedom but it was not freedom-focused. You mean before he entered the monastery? Yeah, his first 27 years. The secular merchant. Yeah, the secular merchant. And then he sought these constraints of the Trappist order to contain his freedom to focus it. And then he wanted to move out into the hermitage, out more into the world. It was just a wonderful journey, kind of a myth of the journey deeper, deeper into the freedom that needs to be framed before it can be given. That's right. That sort of thing. And he really had a frame at Gethsemane for all those years. When you think that he didn't even go out of the monastery for all those years except for a couple of trips. One or two trips to New York and a trip to the East. Incredible. And I think


a lot of the value of Merton is that he was true to his own inner sense. That is, which identifies with that freedom. And he himself is a witness to freedom. And a freedom which has found God and Christ in faith but doesn't let go of either one of those and insists that the two somehow have to be one. That the faith and the freedom ultimately are one thing. Okay. Thank you very much. Take care.