Contemplative Prayer

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.



AI Suggested Keywords:


Contemplative Prayer Class

AI Summary: 





The first class, last time, we spent most of our time in more or less in contact with
section one of Merton's interior experience.
I'll get into these new handouts in a minute, explain at least a couple of them.
The first section there, which is, we could more or less entitle, What is Contemplation?
Oh, his title is Notes on Contemplation, something like that.
And so first it's a question of giving a sense of the contemplative experience, of what he
means by it, and then putting it into a context.
And it's very important to realize rather reflexively what context he puts it in, that
connection with the inner self, because you don't find that in most of the Christian
writings about contemplation.
That's something that Merton has more or less, should we say, rediscovered.
Even the word self, or whatever you want to use as equivalent for it, is not something
that you find a lot of before Merton's time in the West, that is, in our modern period.
What you do find is a lot of talk about the soul, not much about the psyche either, but
about the soul and the spirit, and often very analytical looks at the human person in a scholastic
or post-scholastic way, which attempt to break down the person into the faculties.
But what's lost is the sense of the unity of the person.
See, that's something that returns in our time, in the time of Vatican II, and Merton
is a prophet of that along the line of spirituality.
He may make dichotomies, but he's good along the line of anthropology and spirituality
about re-grasping the unity of the human person, and that contemplation is not one of your faculties
in contact with God, and it's not basically a dualistic relationship between you and God.
It's a unitive experience in which all of these dimensions of unity or non-dualism come
It's very important.
And the fact that contemplation is not something you do, but in a sense it's the activation,
the realization, the actualization of the core of your being, and the whole of your being.
Now, that puts the whole theme of contemplation in a completely different light.
It relates it to the center, and then it relates it to everything.
So it's not this or that, it's everything in some sense.
That can be overdone too, as we'll see.
However, it's very valuable for finding our way around in the monastic life.
Remember Panakkar's notion of the center with which he defines the monastic life in the monk?
I brought that up a hundred times.
But that was a very precious thing for me, when Panakkar...
The equivalent, I remember in my reading, was when I read that series of articles on
purity of heart, and could locate the heart as the core of a monastic theology or a monastic
spirituality in the biblical tradition.
And Panakkar writes about the center and generalizes it.
Now, you bring those two together, and you've got an excellent framework or axis for understanding
monasticism, I believe, monastic spirituality, in an interior way.
And monasticism as the interior, as it were, dimension or interior level, ideally speaking
of the life of the church and of human life.
And in a sense of the cosmos.
As Merton brings out when he talks about the contemplative as Adam, Adam in the garden,
in the place of unity prior to all the dichotomies, in the place of the integrity, the wholeness,
the resonance, when human nature rang as a bell before the splits and the alienation,
the fragmentation, the expulsion from the garden, and all of our hemorrhoids and other
So, contemplation for him is an awakening of the inner self.
And most of the rest of that first section is involved with giving you experiential witnesses
to that awakening from various angles.
The first angle is that of a Zen contemplative, remember, Chuken, was that his name?
The homely old man sitting in his office when his fountain mind was placid and clear, and
then the doors of the mind, a thunderclap, he heard a thunderclap, and the doors of the
mind burst open, and suddenly nothing happened and everything happened, and he was the same
old guy, and all of a sudden everything is filled with light, everything is somehow made
new and yet just as it was, the indescribable unit of experience.
And then he quotes several Christian texts, remember, St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and
John of the Cross, and without getting very analytical about it, he's sort of just sketching
out the area, just sort of driving posts in the ground, and then he's going to move around
in that area afterwards with a more, what would you call it, more rigorous approach.
He was just staking out the territory in that first section.
Notice a kind of parallel, and it's very important to realize what Martin is putting
in there.
In other words, when you read Martin writing about contemplation, writing about these things,
he's not simply giving you the tradition of the Church, he's not giving you a kind of
orthodox version, you know, a standard version.
It's got a spin on it, a twist on it.
It's got a special framework which he has very painstakingly worked out in the course
of his own life, and he's trying to write about experience and not just theory.
And it's important to realize that, both because a lot of the value of what he gives
you is in that particular point of view, and also because it's a personal point of view,
it's not infallible, so it has to be evaluated.
You have to, you have a right to check it out with your own experience and to check
it out with other things that you read and hear.
It's not an absolute.
Note a kind of parallel here, and remember that axis of the movement from the false self
to the true self in Martin.
We looked at that positively and then criticized it a bit.
But notice a parallel in that movement from the false self to the true self in Martin,
and to a true contact with reality there.
That's a movement from an exterior self, which is determined by, remember where Eliot
says somewhere, a face to meet the faces that we meet, like we make a face, we put
on a face to meet the faces that we meet.
That kind of thing, that's a persona, the kind of personality, the kind of self-image
that is created to get along in the world.
And we have to have one in some sense, but when we believe in it, then we're in trouble.
And the false self is a self which believes in that persona, it believes in its batting
average, it believes in its fan mail, it believes in the percentage that it gets, the
kind of feedback that it gets, and it is built upon that, it doesn't have anything inside
to rest upon.
The true self is the self which somehow is springing up from inside, and doesn't need
It may receive it, you know, but it doesn't dwell on it, it doesn't live on it.
It's not based on that feedback, based on that mirroring from outside itself, but somehow
its identity is flowing mysteriously from within, from the invisible, from the Father,
as we say in Christianity.
Now notice a kind of parallel to what's happening in the Church at that time.
This is the time of Vatican II, Merton died in 1968.
This inner experience was written, what, in 1959, okay, so it's right in that time.
But the Church is undergoing a similar journey during that time.
Now I don't want to make this too sharp, but the Church is sort of waking up from its
counter-reformation false self, in a certain way.
I don't want to exaggerate this.
But when the Church gets into a battle, and it got into a life and death struggle, I'm
talking about the Catholic Church in particular, at the time of the Protestant Reformation,
it tends to have to create a self which is not quite itself, okay, when it's embattled,
it tends to get rigid, it tends to tighten up, and to begin to assume an exterior identity
which is not quite the same, not quite coherent with its genuine interior, mysterious identity.
See, it doesn't have the patience for mystery at that point, it has to have answers.
And so it comes out with answers, and it builds a structure of answers, a Church of answers,
which almost suppresses the question.
Almost suppresses the question.
Because if you ask the question, you're afraid that the other guy's answer may prevail,
so you've got to get your answer in there before the other fellow does.
That sort of thing happens.
So what the Church does is construct a kind of exterior self, a kind of false self.
Vatican II is a waking up from that particular problem, which is four or five hundred years
old, stems at least from the time of the Counter-Reformation, Reformation and Counter-Reformation,
to the interior identity of the Church.
You find this, for example, in the images of the Church, the models of the Church.
Remember when Avery Dulles writes his book, Models of the Church, and he says, well, we've
been living on one image, which is the institutional image.
Now that's what would you call the battle gear of the Church.
The institutional image is like the mobilized Church, Church militant, Church in a fight,
and therefore having to have a hard, clearly defined, impregnable image of itself, like
going out in armor to confront the foe.
But is that the true self of the Church?
Maybe it's a self of the Church, but as Dulles points out, we're able to think up five or
six other images, which go much deeper into the true reality of the Church.
So instead of being fixed on one self-image, the Church moves into a plurality of images,
and beyond and within the plurality of the images, the mystery of its own identity, which
dwells within that.
Do you see the parallel with what Merton is doing in talking about our movement from the
false self to the true self?
So no doubt he's being moved also by the zeitgeist at that time, and by the spirit which is moving
the Church interiorly, and towards the interior, and towards a deeper discovery of its own
identity at the time of Vatican II.
I don't want to push the parallel too far, but I think it's true.
Also something about the masculine-feminine spectrum is involved here, in this movement
from the more exterior identity to the interior identity, and from a more, I would just say,
circumscribed and hard, objective view, to an acceptance of mystery, and an understanding
of self and everything else, somehow in a participative way, and in a holistic way, rather than simply
objective and dualized.
We'll talk more about that later.
Okay, in those handouts you have, one of them, handout number two, it's H2 there, is called
Theses about Contemplation.
Now this is something that I've started here and would like to continue, and these are
more or less, what would you call it, experimental, or improvisory, just to put down some fundamental
principles about the view that we're taking of contemplation as a contemplative experience.
I'd better get my notes, myself.
Now, the first one is that it's a unitive, a non-dual knowledge, okay?
I'm almost equating the word contemplation with that expression.
The non-dual expression has a lot more affinity, of course, to Eastern traditions, to the Asian
spiritual traditions, than it does to ours, and when I say that, we have a tendency to
want to define that.
The only trouble is, it doesn't define very well, because when we say unitive, we mean
non-dual in several different directions.
There's this book, Non-Duality, by David Loy, that I'll refer to from time to time.
He starts out, he's trying to find a common denominator between the Asian traditions,
between Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and he finds it in the experience of the reality
of non-duality.
But then he sets out in his first chapter to try to say what he means by non-duality,
and comes up with five different kinds, which are as follows.
First, the negation of dualistic thinking, that is, thinking which differentiates into
two or both categories, like good and bad, or mine and yours, or being and non-being,
success and failure, things like that.
Secondly, the non-plurality of the world, that is, that somehow the world is one, is
one thing.
This is not in your notes.
This is all with reference to that first thesis about contemplation, that contemplation
is unitive or non-dual knowledge.
Just kind of a note to that.
If you're interested in this, I can give you a copy of this too.
Thirdly, the non-difference of subject and object, and that's the chief way in which
he, Loy, talks about non-duality or unitive experience.
That is, when you perceive something, when you know something, you know it through your
unity with it.
You don't know it objectively, that is, as an object opposed to yourself that you see
clearly at a distance, as it were, and clearly from an exterior front, as it were, from a
facade, as we see one another's faces.
Our relationships are very complex and curious, because we see a face, and that's an objective
knowledge, isn't it?
That's purely subject-object.
And yet, at the same time, we know that very face in a participative way, because we're
made of the same stuff, and so on.
You can't know a human person in a totally non-participative way.
We try to, by creating enemies and so on, but it's very hard to do.
And then, two more.
The identity of phenomena and the absolute.
That's kind of a mysterious one, but it comes up, for instance, when a Buddhist will say
that samsara is the same as nirvana.
In other words, that even non-duality and duality are the same.
So the idea of non-duality is a little more subtle than one might think.
And then, finally, mystical unity between God and the human person.
We're surprised to find that number five, we'd put it number one, probably coming from
a Christian point of view.
And so would Merton, in his early works.
In his later works, he might also not put it number one.
So those are just...
What I'm trying to do is illustrate that this notion of non-duality is more than a notion,
and it expands along all these dimensions.
So really, it's an indefinable experience.
And in a sense, it's the experience, the experience of experiences in which everything is transformed,
and you are not separate from any of it.
And all of this in the one, in the union, the unity, that is, which is God.
Could you just repeat the first two again?
The first one was the negation of dualistic thinking.
Merton gets to this in that section that we had for this time, okay, where he talks about
the kind of, oh, what the lumberman's thinking versus the child in the forest.
That same page, he talks in quite a focused, precise way about this.
The idea of the knowledge of good and evil is our Christian equivalent, okay?
That after Adam and Eve ate from the tree, their vision was changed.
Remember, their eyes were opened?
But what did it mean that their eyes were opened?
It's ironic, isn't it?
Their eyes were open, and suddenly they were scared of God, they were ashamed, they covered
themselves up, and they were no longer really friends any longer either.
Everything somehow was alienated from that point.
They were thinking, from that point, dualistically in some way.
The knowledge of good and evil is this non-unitive knowledge, the fall into duality from non-duality.
Merton will say that, and also Suzuki.
It's curious that he's got this dialogue with D.T.
Suzuki in Zen and Birds of Appetite, and Suzuki uses the very image from Genesis, he picks
that up as his preferred image from the Christian tradition, for this difference between dualistic
thinking and non-dualistic thinking, that Adam and Eve fall into duality.
It's beautiful, really.
It's perfect, coming from that particular angle.
It's not a complete interpretation of that scripture text, obviously, but it's perfect
in its way.
It's hard to improve on it.
So the first one was the negation of dualistic thinking, that positive-negative thinking.
The second is the non-plurality of the world.
In other words, we live in a universe which can seem to be an aggregate of different things,
or can be perceived as being one thing.
See, there's a great revolution in this direction right now, the whole Gaia movement, for instance,
which sees the planet as one living being, Earth as one living being, the revival of
the notion of the world-soul, and so on.
One living being from which you are not separate.
You don't look at it from outside, you know it from inside itself.
So the world being one thing.
And when we say world, in this sense, we don't mean just the planet either, we mean the universe,
don't we?
We mean everything.
Everything we know, from a Christian perspective, everything that's created.
In some ways it seems paradoxical to have five distinct points about non-duality, etc.
It is, yes.
Wouldn't that last, really...
I mean, it's not like you have five juxtaposed or in the same order, but the fifth embraces
them all.
It's as if the first four are kind of prefiguring the same preparations for the fifth.
Yes, I think from a Christian perspective, I think that's true.
From a Buddhist perspective, the first one might absorb all the other four, but in either
case what you say is true.
That is, this...
You see the importance of this, however, because this sketches out your territory and shows
you that the way you're thinking of it now is probably along one of these dimensions,
Because that's what we usually do.
So this is pushing out the various dimensions of the notion of non-duality, after which
you sort of collapse those members, those beams again, and just allow it to be itself,
as a total reality, which is unanalyzable.
Because it's completely ironic to analyze it into dimensions and categories when it
is the very experience of what we say non-partitionability or something like that, you know, of unity.
Just to throw a frog into the soup, I think even a good Hindu would not even say that
God and the created are one, because that implies that there's two things being one.
They would just say that they're not two.
Oh, yes, sure, that's right.
Non-dual is even more accurate than unitive.
That's right.
They're not two.
That's right.
They're not different.
That's right.
Yes, the language, I think all of our expressions are going to fall short in some way, so each
one we use it, and then we have to realize that what we're talking is beyond it in some
way, and that we've abused what we're talking about in some way with our word, you know.
But the expression non-dual has the advantage of starting from the side of non-duality
rather than moving towards the side of non-duality from a divided.
However, notice that the Christian perspective in general, the Judeo-Christian perspective,
differs from the Asian perspective, because we move from duality to unity.
This is true even in our lives, you know.
The whole thing.
Think of law and gospel, okay?
The movement from law to gospel, from Old Testament to New Testament, I believe, can
be seen as a movement from duality to non-duality, okay?
So that's our pattern.
Whereas in the Asian traditions, you're more likely to postulate on original non-duality,
and then sort of try to return to it, in a sense, okay, to enter into it through interiority.
Instead of historically speaking, it has to do with our historical quality, you know,
the Western tradition.
We're historical people, it's a historical tradition, and that means dualism.
We start there.
We move from history to the point, to the infinite point, of the non-dual, which is in
Christ, it's in baptism, it's in the resurrection, and so on.
Bruno, I think I understand what you're saying, but could you even flesh it a little bit more?
What do you mean by the duality of the law as opposed to the non-duality?
The duality of...
The duality of the law as opposed to the non-duality of the law.
Okay, sure.
All right.
The law says you're to do this and not to do that, okay?
The law says, if you do this, you are good and you are approved by God.
If you do not do this, or if you do that, you are not.
You're either inside the law or outside the law.
Paul says at one point, he makes this wild statement that because of the law, sin arose,
because there was no sin before there was a law.
He's using that in a rhetorical way, okay?
He says something like that, okay?
So the fact of the law creates the possibility of transgression, okay?
And the fact of the law divides your life so that you're acting from an exterior principle,
a principle exterior to yourself, by distinguishing that which is lawful from that which is unlawful,
Now, suppose there's another principle that comes from within yourself, an interior principle,
which does not work by distinctions, but somehow by inclusion, okay?
Which is what the Holy Spirit does according to the New Testament, the Spirit which knows
all things, the Spirit which somehow embraces everything.
The principle then is to remain within the non-dual, to remain within the unitive, the
actual ultimate, absolute, infinite unitive, rather than stepping outside of it into the
darkness and the illusion of duality once again.
Paul says that the law is for sinners, the law is not for the just, okay?
Because it's the people who are outside, in the world of dualism, in the world of fragmentation,
the land of unlikeness, as the Fathers call it, who must make these distinctions.
But if you have the law within you, that law of the Spirit is a non-dual law.
It's not something, I think, that we grab right away, but if you stay with it, it makes
more sense.
Well, also the Church is still in this, is in the face of the law right now, it's not
in the face of the gospel.
Precisely, and which turns people off from the Church in droves.
However, the Church will always have to have, I suppose, that aspect, that exterior aspect
of law, and of prescription, and you can do this and you can't do that, and so on.
We don't like it, but it's sort of the lower run of the whole thing, and it's got to be
there, because we're in that kind of world.
And most practicing Catholics are still entrenched in variables.
That's right.
But when it takes over, when it predominates, and when that's the image which the Church
communicates, then we're in trouble.
Then we're in trouble.
When the Church believes that that's what it is, then we're in trouble.
Talking of staking our territory, I wanted to ask you, where do we put the boundary between
the notion of the unitive, non-dualistic, you know, putting on the mask of Christ,
or the notion of the inner self, and so on, and then the kind of position where we say
there's an identity between divinity and the human, you know.
Where do we put the marker?
I'm not sure that I entirely understand your question, but Merton is going to talk about
that as we go on here.
People have argued over that, and worried over that, for centuries and centuries, you
go back to, when necessary, is that God and the human person are ontologically distinct,
and are united gratuitously in the contemplative experience, let us say, but also already in
But the experience which you hear about, and which he writes about, is continually more
or less ignoring that, because it is a celebration, as it were, of the overcoming of that dualism,
of that duality.
So there isn't, obviously, an ontological duality, but the trick in that, the secret
in that, the mystery in that, is that together with that there's a basic unity of some kind,
which we can't even put into language without transgressing in some way.
And that's what we mean when we say that we move from duality to non-duality in the Judeo-Christian
The secret of non-duality, beneath all of this, is a mystery which we cannot penetrate.
And so we approach it, as it were, linearly, historically, by moving towards it from duality.
But that secret, we're not able to...
So we talk about ontological distinction, but what does that mean, you know?
Because the very core of our being, the very core of our existence is God.
And the mystics like Eckhart will talk about a divine spark in us, and so on, okay?
But whenever we try to put that in hard theological language, we get into trouble.
It doesn't permit itself to be expressed in our abstract language in a satisfactory
way, because we're putting it into dualistic language, and it demands another language,
if it can be spoken in a human language at all.
I think sometimes I think that a principle like Sophia, like the divine wisdom, is a
better solution to this than our almost entirely and monolithically masculine theological tradition.
You say in the West we begin with the dual and we proceed.
This is true, kind of phenomenologically.
Couldn't you say that at the best, there's a situation that begins in the garden, that
doesn't begin with the law of Sinai that comes over in Peter, it begins in this unitive
And also in the New Testament, it begins with grace.
It just begins with this initiative of God that establishes communion with all.
So maybe we're getting back to that primordial in the end, the depth of our Judeo-Christian
way of seeing it.
Unfortunately, we've gotten locked into the dualistic, but maybe that's not the Judeo-Christian
is best.
What I'm trying to say, I think, is this.
What you say about...
See, the theological vision, the best theologians, whether Maximus the Confessor or whoever it
be, will find the non-dual at the source.
You have to do that.
In other words, we can't start with a...
We can't have a metaphysics of dualism, obviously.
However, the path that we walk in our tradition has this pattern woven into it very deeply
of moving from law to grace, let us say.
When you say that the New Testament starts with grace, yes, but this is with the prelude
of law.
That is, on the face...
The prelude to the law is this mysterious pre-law economy that grace recovers.
So it's recovery, not a new...
And that's what Paul says in Romans.
He says before the law was, we have grace.
Okay, but our experience, okay, I think the New Testament, the Judeo-Christian tradition
takes us where we are in a world of dualism and fragmentation in a fallen condition.
In other words, the fallen condition is a condition of what we call extreme dualism,
aggravated dualism.
So it takes us there and moves us towards the beginning.
And what you have, for instance, in John's Gospel is that the beginning, the non-dual
beginning comes into the dualistic world, okay?
The word, the logos, is the non-dualistic beginning of the whole thing, of the creation.
It comes into the middle of the world and then somehow transforms the world from this
non-dualistic center within it, starting from there, okay?
Yeah, the prologue is a wonderful case.
The beginning of the world to where it was...
We would call it the world was...
That's right.
...from that.
That's the...
What would you call it?
That's the non-dual credo, the credo of non-dualism of Christianity right there in the prologue
of John.
But it comes to us in our situation of dualism, and that's what I mean.
Our journey, our walk begins with dualism.
And it's a practical tradition in that sense.
I think you'd find that in any of the great traditions, that there's an implicit dualism
in the way that they operate, no matter what the philosophy is, you know, no matter what
the ultimate experience is.
Buddhism too, you know.
It starts out, I'm sure, with law and the practical life of the disciple.
Opening and closing doors and things like that.
There's dualism.
Let's see.
It's a question of how to spend our time, because I don't think we're going to have much
time for that Merton section today, although I presume that you've sort of digested that.
Let's just run through these theses about contemplation.
The first one, if it's taken us half an hour to talk about it, that's because it somehow
contains everything.
The second one is Merton's principle, which I'm adopting here.
Contemplation is a direct experience, a realization of the self.
And we'll be seeing that again and again.
Therefore, it's not limited to persons of any particular faith or religion.
It's not a particularly, peculiarly Christian experience.
Now, we'd have to qualify this from another side as well, by saying, ah, yes, but everybody's
an anonymous Christian, and I believe that's true.
And every non-dual experience somehow is in the word, is in the logos, and I believe that
But we're not approaching it from that angle.
And from our point of view, we want to say that this is something that's shared by all
the great spiritual traditions, and is central to the Asian spiritual traditions.
Could you go back to two just for a second?
Actually, there was something I had, underlining the Merton thing that I was going to ask you
And that is, on your page seven, he says, a pure metaphor, a way of saying that our
being somehow communicates directly with the being of God, who is in us, directly into
the being of God.
I mean, again, immediately, and you were saying there, contemplation is a direct experience.
Immediate, I'm thinking of as unmediated, like nothing between us and God.
What part of the...
Oh, here it is.
Part of the Christian, halfway down the Christian approach.
All of this is, of course, pure metaphor.
Our being somehow communicates directly with the being of God who is in us.
Well, it's that word directly, and also use of direct experience, and I'm thinking of
the word immediate.
I seem to recall, I mean, that is a...
I think what he means is immediate, not in the sense of time, not instantly, but without
Well, that's what I'm saying.
Is there not some debate among theologians of grace whether there can be an immediate,
unmediated experience of God in this life?
I mean, don't people sometimes...
Yeah, they do.
And I think very often, when they do, I think they're not really taking this experience
into consideration, okay?
The principle that there's nothing in the intellect, or that it hasn't come through
sense, and so on, you know, is valid up to a certain point, but this is the point.
See, this experience is the one that somehow relativizes all the boundary lines, that somehow
says, yes, but, to all of those qualifications, this experience of immediacy.
A lot of theologians are very determined on one line, like, well, there'd be liturgical
theologians who say, nothing that isn't mediated through symbols, or something like that, or
through ritual, or something like that.
Yes, but there is something else.
This is the point at which analytical theology, and the theology that makes hard rules, just
isn't able quite to do it, isn't able quite to reach this point.
And the better theologians will recognize that, they'll at least put a footnote.
Yeah, the whole thesis of what we're talking about, the whole thesis of what we're talking
about, is that there is an immediate experience of God, is a unitive experience of God, in
which the union is the knowledge, and the knowledge is the union.
And if you say, well, it's still mediated by your psyche, this somehow...
We have to distinguish psyche and spirit, and suppose we say that the spirit is unitive,
that there is a unitive faculty in us, which is not recognized by most Western theology.
Or, on another level, to be able to say that a human person can have an experience of God
without the veil.
I mean, is that possible in this life?
Well, it depends on what you say the veil is, because I think John of La Crosse would
say that even in the greatest unitive experience in this life, there's still a veil.
But what do we mean by the veil at that point?
I don't know.
There's still a veil somehow of mortality.
There's some kind of veil still between the human person and the divinity.
But the veil experientially nearly disappears at that point, and we're talking about things
that we really, at that point, can't talk about.
Yeah, I think it's that nearly area.
I remember somebody talking at length about that once, just insisting that the human person
will always have, in this life, will always have...
They don't have immediacy because of that.
Yeah, but I think there's immediacy in spite of that.
In other words, I don't think the veil is a mediation, exactly.
The veil is some kind of limitation on the experience of union.
And when I say that, I'm not understanding very well what I'm saying.
But I'm trying to make some kind of distinction.
But I think John of La Crosse does insist on the veil in this life.
It's in one of his... Is it the Spiritual Canticle, where he says,
Break the veil. Now is the time to break the veil.
The beloved says to the lover, you know.
And I think he says in the commentary, probably, that the veil remains in this life.
It has to do with mortality.
That we're not just freed into the Godhead in this mortal life.
Yes, sir.
I have a question about the inner self, or the true self of the second form.
That's the main topic of Merton's first section.
And he presents it in a rather elusive way.
As I think, in reality, the inner self is like that.
I mean, you cannot take it as an object.
That's right, exactly.
But in essence, can we say that the inner self, or the true self of each one,
is the self according to the design of God?
The secret name given to each one,
when it is recognized in the depths of our being,
and responds to, then becomes the awakened inner self.
We can certainly say that.
And I'm certain that Merton says nearly that at some point, okay?
Yeah, he says that.
In his various books.
For instance, either in Seeds of Contemplation and No Seeds of Contemplation,
he nearly says that.
Yeah, isn't he?
He says that we are a word of God, okay?
And he also gets into the language of name, I believe.
So, it is that.
And it is also mutative in the sense that the word is one with that which it comes from, in some way.
That is, the boundary line between this true self and God himself, and the divinity,
is very, not only permeable, but even in some way relative, even questionable.
Such is the grace of God.
Okay, I just want to show sort of the coherence of these principles.
Not all of which, you know, are infallible either.
Number four.
Notice, this is not just an isolated experience,
because there is one problem with this, all right?
A person can go through the whole of his life,
even a religious person, a devout person, a spiritual person, and a monk,
without ever experiencing this in its pure form.
So what's the good of talking about it?
If it's a rare experience, if it's a rare birth.
But is it only that?
Is it only that if what we've said is true, if it has that relation to the inner self?
Because aren't we always relating to the inner self?
Aren't we always in between the old man and the new man?
Isn't that Christ self always trying to break through the shell, as it were?
Isn't it always expressing itself?
Doesn't it in some way influence or permeate all of our life, all of our response?
Now, if that's true, then in some way the contemplative experience,
the contemplative reality is related to all of our life as well, all right?
Now, notice that in number three,
we're expanding this to all of humanity along the line of people, okay?
Other people, all people.
And here we're expanding this into the fullness of humanity,
as you might say, in the individual person,
in the fullness of the realization of the individual person or the ordinary life,
all the dimensions of the life of the ordinary person, okay?
So we're trying to bring this contemplative reality and experience
into every part of the human world,
both the world of all humanity, all peoples,
and also all of my humanity, all of your humanity, okay?
Including sin?
There, I think it would be...
It's a difficult question.
Is it really a difficult question, or does our common sense answer it?
In other words, what does our common sense say about that?
That somehow sin is a slap in the face of the true self,
so it involves the true self, okay?
Something like that, all right?
It's a renunciation.
It's defying the pressure of the true self in our life.
It's defying the pressure and the light of the inner self,
the Christ self in ourselves,
in order to create a little pocket of darkness, okay?
So it certainly is in touch with the true self,
but in an inverse or ironic way, okay?
Now we have two modes of being present, you know.
The presence of my degree in all the activities of the human person.
And then you have this mode of negation, of absence, of inversion, as you call it.
No, I think that's certainly true.
That is in every sphere of activity,
because consciousness is involved and freedom is involved
in every sphere of activity, or should be,
either by its presence or by its exclusion.
Because if we think of the true self as something that is pressing upon our life,
trying to push itself out into our life,
trying to realize itself in all of our life,
in everything that we do, you know,
so that we will become actually conscious and become actually free.
So think of freedom and consciousness,
think of light and fire as pushing into our life at every point, at every moment,
you know, that kind of...
Okay, now number five is one interpretation,
or one perspective for, what do you say, explaining that,
or developing a little further.
That is, contemplation is a direct experience of the ground of consciousness.
And I refer to Rahner here, to Karl Rahner,
because that's his epistemology, I believe, basically.
Even if he never quite says it, or very rarely quite says it,
the experience of the transcendent, or the presence of the transcendent,
is in every act of cognition.
In everything that we know, we know God.
In everything that we love, we love God.
Implicitly, and perhaps even inversely or perversely, in some way, you know.
But it's in all of our inner life.
So, in some way, the light of the contemplative experience,
just as the light of heaven, the light of the sun,
is in everything that we do outdoors,
in all of our activities and so on.
It even permeates us, because that's where we get our energy.
So this contemplative experience is not separate,
is not unrelated to any part of our conscious life.
Now, as the ground of consciousness, what does that mean?
It's like the light in which we see light,
the light in which we are conscious.
It's like the basic pure light of which consciousness is a reduced form.
Something like that.
Our ordinary consciousness.
On the ground of consciousness, is that objective or subjective?
Generally, that is, as you're saying,
it's the ground of consciousness having this direct experience,
or are you saying it's a direct experience of the ground?
No, I mean it's a direct experience
of that which is the ground of ordinary consciousness.
So you can capitalize it as...
Which word?
Yes, yes, you could.
That's an accordion word, you know.
Grund, is it?
How's that?
But who is experiencing?
Is it the human subject who is experiencing this ground?
But isn't it the humans?
Well, if you say the human subject disappears...
I don't think we need to be pushed around by our language in that way.
We're free to talk about it.
Particularly since we're not only talking of the pure experience,
but we're talking of its reduced forms, or lesser forms,
which are partial experiences of the ground of consciousness.
You can say that every conscious experience
is an experience of the ground of consciousness,
but it's filtered, diminished, refracted in every way.
Well, lesser in participations in the ground of consciousness,
but to the extent that the contemplative experience is pure,
what we're saying is that it is a direct
and full experience of the ground of consciousness,
of the light, as it were, which is the ground or light
of all of our consciousness.
And I think the special contribution of Brahman is
the experience of Brahman as something concomitant
to everything we experience.
Exactly, exactly.
Just like the light, in the light we see all the objects.
That's right.
And the fact is, we can see it's not direct.
It's immediate, but not direct.
Our direct attention is paid to the objects.
That's right.
Not the light.
That's right, so it's reflected.
Just as the light of the sky is reflected from the objects that we see.
Right, so it's more profound.
It's immediate and profound, but at the same time,
not necessarily direct.
He doesn't often talk about the direct experience of transcendence, does he?
I think he does, where he talks about discernment
and the exercises of Saint Ignatius.
He had a famous article on the discernment of spirits there.
And he talks about, what is it?
That experience which is un...
There's a Spanish expression for it,
that unprepared experience, direct experience of spirit.
Yeah, that's it.
ConsolaciĆ³n sin causa, or something like that in Spanish, yeah.
So that's, as it were, the flash of direct experience
of the ground of consciousness,
which would be what we're talking about here.
Which is, for him, is a criterion of discernment.
If that way is clear, as it were, to that light of consciousness,
it means somehow that we are moving in the right way.
I suppose he would say we have not clouded our consciousness
by a wrong decision, by a wrong movement.
Okay, the next one, six, we move into an explicit...
And Ken Wilber, by the way, is the one who wrote
The Spectrum of Consciousness,
and who reduces everything, as it were,
to one spectrum and one principle,
seeing the ultimate reality as being consciousness,
and everything else, as it were,
built upon the ground of an infinite consciousness.
But I don't want to take a sidetrack into him right now.
And he's coming from a...
Basically, I suppose you'd call it a Buddhist metaphysics,
so we can't accept everything that he says.
Faith is a dark unit of knowledge, the beginning of contemplation.
Faith, as a unit of knowledge,
faith, Christian faith, I'm thinking particularly of Christian faith,
the faith in Jesus, the faith of the first...
Believing person, in some way,
contains all this wisdom within him, within her.
That kind of thing, okay?
And then faith may become gradually illumined,
and filled in, as it were,
so that this becomes an explicit unit of knowledge.
But I think it's because it's a unit of knowledge
that it reaches so deep in us.
Consider the importance of faith in the New Testament.
And faith is some kind of knowledge, there's no way out of it.
Faith is a knowing.
But consider its role in the New Testament.
According to Paul, everything, absolutely everything,
depends upon and turns upon faith.
The one thing that makes a difference in our life is faith.
And then love, of course, which is somehow inseparable from faith.
The two and somehow are one thing.
They're like two sides of one thing.
Two faces of one thing, or two modes of one thing.
But everything turns upon faith.
Faith is the basic cognition, the basic connection.
And John of the Cross says the same thing.
So faith has to be,
has to be arriving at the same point we're talking about
when we talk about this unit of knowledge
and we talk about this true self, doesn't it?
This core of our personality, this core of our being.
That's got to be the same center, the same pivot
that we're talking about when we talk about
contemplation as unit of knowledge.
So we introduce this thesis.
And we can...
Martin will go on at length about faith
when he's coming from St. John of the Cross,
as he frequently does.
Okay, seven. We'll get to this next time
when we talk about Christian contemplation.
Now, Martin says in Seeds of Contemplation and in New Seeds
that the seeds of contemplation
are planted in the Christian at baptism.
And then they're developed later on
through a life of faith and a life of asceticism
and a life of detachment and of prayer.
Can we say more?
If you read the early Christian tradition
you get the idea
that it was in the experience of baptism,
remember they were baptized as adults,
that this actually happened to them.
And it wasn't only a seed,
it was somehow an experience of fullness.
They looked back to the baptismal experience
as having been like the...
not only the rising of the sun,
but the sun in its full splendor in some way.
The fullness of the baptismal experience,
the fullness of the grace of Christ
somehow experienced in baptism.
This has got to be what we're talking about.
I believe it is.
They call it illumination, you know, photosmos.
Now, we don't find the word contemplation
in the New Testament, as Martin points out,
but it's hidden in all of these other expressions
for unitive experience.
One of which is the baptismal experience of light
and the other particularly is the experience of communion,
of koinonia, of love, agape.
Those two.
Eight is something we've already covered.
Here I'm attempting to put it in a Christian perspective.
In Christian tradition you find much talk of union
but little talk of unity.
Much talk of union with God,
especially in the Carmelite tradition.
But not much talk about the unity of the person
or simply unity without any adjective.
Nine, contemplation is experienced both as light and as darkness.
Often you'll find the expression a ray of darkness
or dark light in Martin and John of the Cross.
And I think it starts with Gregory of Nyssa.
And, of course, you'll find the same kind of thing
in Dionysius and throughout the epiphatic tradition.
But the idea of the positive presence and light of God
being able to be experienced as darkness,
that can be very important to have that idea
when you go through certain things.
Okay, ten is related to four.
It's just the other side of it, as it were.
We can talk about a pure contemplative experience
and then we can talk about a lot of other
partially contemplative experiences.
We can talk about a pure unitive experience,
a non-dual experience.
And then we can talk about a whole bunch of
participative experiences which are not dualistic
and yet are not pure either.
Now, Martin will distinguish later.
I think it's in his...
when we get to the fourth section, I think.
He talks about kinds of contemplations.
He'll talk about pure or mystical contemplation,
the unitive experience in its purity and fullness,
and then he'll talk about active contemplation
or natural contemplation, and so on.
So we'll get into those fine distinctions later on.
I've put down here just a few qualities
of this pure contemplative experience.
It's very paltry.
You could say a lot more about it,
but we'll go into that later
and we can expand the list at that time.
Connected with this is the next handout there,
this H3,
which is all taken from this book
of Claudio Naranjo.
Naranjo, I believe he's a Chilean psychologist,
transpersonal psychologist,
called The One Quest.
The book's about 20 years old now, I think.
He's talking about the convergences,
and he comes from a transpersonal psychology
which itself is developing the boundary line
between psychology and spirituality.
They're between psyche and spirit, basically.
So it's got a naturally convergent
or synthetic approach.
And he says that these three paths
come together here.
Education, or human development, human growth,
could be philosophia in the classic sense, you know,
or paideia, or whatever the Greeks said.
Psychotherapy, as it gets beyond just pathology
and moves into the personal growth realm,
with Maslow, you know,
and they call it the third wave,
or whatever it was,
and humanistic psychology,
and then transpersonal psychology,
it begins to think not just of therapy,
not just of healing,
but of development.
And thirdly, religion, or spirituality,
as we might say.
And then he talks about these four different ways,
which in Hinduism, I believe,
are called the four margas, remember?
The way of pure contemplation would be mindfulness,
the fourth one there,
or the way of knowledge, the way of learning,
the way of feeling, the way of action,
you know, bhakti and karma and all those.
I'm always mixing up a couple of them.
Jhana and something else.
And then, what I'm getting to is in C,
these qualities or aspects of the development.
Now, notice here we're not just talking about contemplation,
we're talking about the whole human path.
What happens when a person matures?
What happens when a person becomes actualized or realized?
When the true self, as it were,
begins to appear and begins to take over.
So these are the qualities which he finds
and transpersonal and humanistic psychologists
have done a lot of work on this kind of thing.
Maslow worked a lot on this kind of thing,
trying to identify that beast that's emerging there
as the human person moves towards realization.
You'll notice a lot of this resonates with Merton,
with what Merton's been saying about the true self.
It's a more systematic and easier to grasp,
I think, picture than Merton gives you,
because he's often being poetic about it
and speaking about it at length.
The shift in identity, okay, that's where Merton starts.
The movement from the false self, the exterior self,
to the interior self.
Increased contact with reality.
And he'll talk about that.
Notice in the second section, which you read for this class,
as you move, you withdraw from the world in some way,
you make a new contract with reality,
with the world in a different way,
in which you're really closer to it than you were before.
Thirdly, simultaneous increase in both participation and detachment.
I'm happy to find that word participation there particularly.
That somehow, as this wall of the false self breaks down,
you're both more free from the things that you relate to,
and you relate to them more deeply.
There's a paradox there.
Simultaneous increase in freedom and the ability to surrender.
A paradox which is parallel to the other one, isn't it?
On a slightly different frontier.
Interpersonal, interpersonal, between body and mind,
subject and object, man and God.
There he's getting to our core, isn't he?
He's getting to what we're talking about,
and what Merton talked about in the beginning.
Remember, not only did he talk about the true self,
but he talked about the self which is a unity.
He started out by saying, you've got to get it together.
This whole issue is about the unity of the person.
That the thing which chiefly qualifies the true self is it's a unitive self.
Increased self-acceptance.
Merton hasn't been talking much about that.
He sort of presupposes it, I think.
He'll talk about it at an angle,
when he talks about the problems of the contemporary person
coming into monastic life.
And he does that at length in other books.
It's connected with that question of identity in number one, isn't it?
The shift in identity and the increased self-acceptance
are almost two sides of the same thing.
As Karen Horney says,
together with the search for glory, the idealized self, the false self,
there's a deep self-hatred.
And as one gets in touch with the true self,
those two things are no longer...
He's no longer stretched on the rack of those two poles,
but somehow they come together.
The interior self, the true self, doesn't have a problem of acceptance.
It's almost self-verifying, in a sense.
You get that sense when you read the Gospel and see Jesus in the Gospel.
He doesn't have a self-acceptance problem.
Seven, increase in consciousness.
And since we're talking about contemplation, of course,
that seems obvious, but we've been talking about contemplations
and how it's soaking into every part of life,
so that an increase of consciousness in all departments of life...
We may return to this list later on,
when we're talking about one or another of these categories.
That handout that follows there...
I've got to explain those things just a little bit.
I think it's... What is it? Number 4, H4.
Those are three texts on non-dual experience in the West.
That is, a pretty full acceptance and expression of the non-dual experience.
And this is rare in our Western tradition.
That's why it seemed worthwhile to take three points where we find it.
Now, notice Plotinus is not Christian.
But his view, and his unitive view,
has been absorbed by so much of our Christian tradition,
starting with Saint Augustine,
and I think some of the Greek fathers, too.
And secondly, Meister Eckhart in the 13th century, and then Thomas Merton.
It would be very interesting to talk about
how these three points relate historically,
and what the fact of these three breakthroughs, let us say,
may say to us today,
and the position of Christianity with the world religions.
But we can't do that now.
Let me give you the dates for those three, just for...
Just for the record.
Merton's 1915 to 1968.
Plotinus, I believe, is something like 205 to 270, with a question mark.
That's from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.
About 205 to 270.
Eckhart died in 1274, didn't he?
Same year as Saint Thomas Aquinas.
No, I'm thinking of Bonaventure there.
It was 1327.
I wrote it down and then lost it.
I should have read it.
Yeah, I wrote it down somewhere and I misread it.
Well, I'll give it to you when I find it.
It's realistic.
I know, that's where we start.
Okay, here we go.
Plotinus is about 205 to 270.
Eckhart is about 1260.
I think it's only the first date that's in doubt.
Merton, 1915 to 1968.
And, of course, Eckhart is influenced by Plotinus,
and Merton is influenced by both Plotinus and Eckhart,
or Plotinus through Eckhart.
But each one is talking, I think, about personal experience
as well as conveying a tradition.
Now, the other pages that you have there
are a bunch of texts from Thomas Merton on contemplation.
That's H5.
Starting with that earliest major writing on contemplation
called What is Contemplation?
And through the other works which are listed by Shannon
at the end of his book with their dates, if you're interested.
And just a selection of quotes on this subject from each one of them.
If you look through them, it's very interesting, the development
and the various influences also that you can detect there.
It may be all kind of confusing at first, but we'll refer to those.
We'll come back to these quotes.
Especially when we talk, I think, about the pure contemplation
and unitive experience.
Okay, I've kept you too long for today, so thank you.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.