That is an important distinction. In this case, "reality" might be understood in an ontological sense -- a change in the nature of the mystic, who is becoming more united with God, more "deified," as it were. Of course, grace might be operating in such manner in the zen mystic as well, and I don't want to discount that possibility.
I think what would be good is to draw to different paths - metaphysical (samadhi, satori) and relational (prayer, contemplation, spiritual marriage) - as Phil suggested in his dialogue with Marion. Some people enjoy the felt presence of God and there state cannot be described as positive or absolute samadhi at all. Some have deep access to satori but never experienced the transcendent Other in their depths.
I like your change in reality/change in perception distinction, but I think that it's connected. Change in perception almost always involves some change in a reality of a person, and a change of reality most probably will change somehow the perception, although not always in terms of access to non-reflecting conciousness.
There are also people who don't experience samadhi at all, don't experience mystical contemplation and don't feel ever God in a perceptible way, but still are sanctified and radiate something extraordinary, doing nothing in particular. Change in reality - sure, but they say they perceive world "normally". This is the majority, I suppose.
There is also a possibility, but it's a hypothesis for me, that there's some kind of "mixed experienced" - satori and mystical contemplation at the same time. I don't know if this is not contradictory, but perhaps some people experience profound non-duality and at the same time they experience the Love of the Other running through their veins.
These are all good points, Mt. St. Teresa of Avila's spirituality is very definitely relational. And the majority of people aren't contemplatives at all, and yet as you say they can still lead Godly lives.
This makes sense to me too, Derek.
There is a lot of evidence that the Eastern mystical experience of unity consciousness is more of a change in perception of an existing reality. It is biologically/energetically based- change in consciousness. In the non-dual state, the report is of an an experience that is always there but one had to 'awaken' to it.
There is also support for this idea from neurobiology, that the non-dual state can be acquired by drugs (that's how Ram Dass got started) and even from that scientist who's shared about her enlightenment experience following her stroke. Another report came from a guy who experienced non-duality during electrical stimulation of his brain in surgery. These people don't subjectively describe themselves as changing as much as they say they're perceptions are expanded or illuminated.
In Christ, however, we literally are becoming part of a New Creation. The Christian mystics have direct revelations into this new reality.
But I also see Mt's point of view that there can certainly be a mixture of both of these types of changes.
Thank you for taking the time to share with us your studies on this topic.
I agree that eastern mystics tend to talk about their union in terms of in personal force and the goal they have is more about perception then the change of reality. Part of this may be in the language used in describing the experience.
In the East God or the supreme being tends to be described as a force that binds nature giving birth to the many Gods or ways of life. In the West mysticism tends to more personal an experience with a deity or in the case of Christianity Christ. There are some marked differences in are approach but in many cases the experiences themselves are similar.
If we could move beyond the language I think we would find much that both spiritualities can learn from each other. Benedictine's have long had relationships with Buddhists the most famous being Thomas Merton.
I would say the faiths and world views are incompatible but not the techniques, experiences and spiritualities.
Your approach is interesting. The problem with those folks is that you have to solve your "karma" before you can actually approach what ever is called God. With Jesus, you start out "karma/sin" free. From there it is just a matter of whether you are rocky ground, shallow ground, or fertile ground as a personality approaching the Loving Divine and our beloved God, as an adopted child.
I came across some interesting teaching by Thomas Aquinas concerning "speaking about God." It's a condensation of his work in a little catechism, but it references the parts of the Summa that have relevance.
Is it worth returning perhaps to what Mt seemed to be gesturing towards, which is that each of us may well be drawn to God and sanctified in very individual ways, as He wills. Where one person's fulfillment of God's will for them would be to simply live a life of service and charity, and never have any particular mystical experiences, another might have a life of deep mystical transformation.
Personally some of the most influential teachings I have come across have been those emphasizing surrender: whatever God wishes to do with me, I accept. If that means never having another "spiritual experience" I accept. If that means losing everything I thought was important and discovering myself on a completely new trajectory in life, I accept. I really loved Wilfrid Stinissen's book (Into Your Hands, Father) (which is largely a modern reworking of Jean-Pierre Caussade), as well as St. Francis of Sales.
The exploration of what various states, stages and terms mean is valuable, but can sometimes give the impression that one isn't good enough, done enough, holy enough, unless one's own spiritual life matches these descriptions.
And while surrender can seem in contradiction to effort (if I stop trying to make things go a certain way, then I'll never get anywhere!) there is in that view a certain mistrust of really surrendering. As in, what if what God wills for me is not what *I* want?
Has anyone else read Stinissen?
Here's a relevant quote from "The Sparkling Stone," by St. John of Rusybroeck (1293-1381). He's speaking about a person who habitually experiences contemplative prayer.
On thinking about 'surrender', Meister Eckhart praised 'detachment' as the principle virtue of the contemplative, and surely this is the same thing? The surrendering of all those 'attachments' that keep us from God?
I know this is trawling back a few years, but Sasha posed the question:
Eriugena argued that the right relation of apophatic and kataphatic theology is a dialectical one, each informs the other, neither better nor worse, neither more nor less true.
St Denys (Dionysius the pseudoAreopagite) discusses this in "The Divine Names".
Agreed, Thom. Early on in the discussion, I wrote the following, which goes along with what you're saying:
I am so happy to be here! Hello everybody.
I am glad I found this topic because it has been on my mind for a few weeks. I got myself in a debate with some people over whether God can draw a square circle and no matter what sound explanations were given to me to help me see why it was impossible for God to do that or to change mathematical principles, I simply could not see it. And I still cannot! I understand that it is perfectly logical and why it is so that to us God cannot perform logical contradictions. But I am simply unable and unwilling to claim that God cannot do anything that he himself has not told us in revelation that he cannot do. Hence, I accept that God cannot be other than himself per his own testimony, though I realize I really have no idea what this actually means in reality. I just accept it. But I am unwilling to accept that God is as bound to the rules of logic as my intellect is, since these rules appear already planted in my mind such that I simply cannot see reality as other than how logic tells me.
Now, I had no idea at the time this would happen, but I think this manner of thinking which is a deep conviction I have or an orientation of my mind that I do not think I can change at will, that it has made it impossible for me to pray in the traditional or normal manner. I cannot help now but realize or see it as an obvious fact during prayer that all my thoughts and images about Christ and God are non-true. Not really false but that they are not those realities. But I don't have a direct experience of God, so I sit there and think "God is not any of these thoughts or images", but I don't or cant attain to what he in fact is. I just accept that he is there, but also that I have no way of actually relating to him. I feel like I am spiritually agnostic! (If that makes sense) I do not see a way to relate to him since it seems obvious now that all my thoughts are my own ideas from my mind. NOT that they are lies but that they are NOT God himself, they are not Christ. This realization makes me instinctively disinclined to relate to God via these images now. Am I becoming quietist?
So I have this inclination or thought that since I really cant relate to God via thoughts and images, I have very few options;
1) I just sit there and try to be as peaceful and receptive as possible, trusting he is there even if I cant "connect" to this reality directly, and that he will give me whatever he wants to give me, consciously/felt (by me) or not, and trusting also that I am safe in his hands and he will not lead me astray or allow me to be led astray if I give myself to him that way in darkness. I feel I don't have to or want to do anything because I would be orienting to the images and not to God and I feel if I just make the effort to sit there receptively for a time, with a general intention to be with God or in God or for whatever is meant to happen to happen--but not specific striving/strong acts of will--that I will be just fine. So I make an intention for God's will over me to happen before or at times during the sitting but I feel distrusting of my own acts of will because God is God and is present whether I make the acts or not.
2)The other option I realize is that since God's reality is truly beyond me (unless he decides to give it) that I can focus instead on the reality that IS in my grasp, which is my own reality: or the "Here-Now". Not to say I ignore God But I feel like he is not immediately "available" to my mind, though he must be to my actual being. So I try to do the meditations that try to help me be "Here-Now" with the realization God is there even if I don't actively think about him, but more in the level of intention or background openness to this truth but the "activity" of my mind is to the here-now reality. Which after all is gift; That is, my own being and moment-moment life is gift, but this is a background awareness not the immediate focus of my active intellection.
So my questions: is this a safe path I am taking? I have been reading articles by Pema Chodon who is Buddhist (Tibetan) especially on suffering and other things, how she deals with them by accepting them, by connecting with all the suffering through that experience and wishing them healing, which I translate to a prayer for all those in my present moment of suffering, but for me I give them to God and Jesus. Their approach seems to work for me, like its natural to a person like me and everything they write deeply resonates.
My real question: We often are told to focus on particular thoughts or images that represent truth, and this is discursive meditation. I am wondering why the same cannot be done for the present/real-life body experience, instead of a thought and why the latter would be unsafe to do as many Christians often believe. I feel like by fully experiencing my own reality, my here-Now, I am sort of praying without praying, as here-Now is the gift/truth that God gives me and to take it fully is a spiritual response. But I may be completely wrong.
I would really appreciate input from Phil and others, Thank you.
I am sorry if I hijacked the thread but it seems appropriate as it is about my present spiritual difficulty. If it is too bothersome perhaps it can be moved according to the rules of this board.
I think you get to the heart of the kataphatic/apophatic tensions, St. Rubia, so your reflections and questions are not at all off-topic.
First . . . I think both your 1. and 2. methods/pathways are sound, and they are also complementary. That seems to be the way of apophatic spirituality -- to simply be open to God who is beyond all understanding, with entrusting openness to accept whatever God wishes to give of Godself during the prayer time, then to live that out in present moment awareness through the day.
I'm not quite understanding your struggle with thoughts, concepts and images, however. It's certainly true that these are not God per se, but I don't think it follows that God cannot/does not communicate to us through them (not that you said anything quite that definite). The kataphatic way emphasizes this possibility -- that concepts, images, symbols, etc. can be a medium through which the divine communicates to us, meeting us where we are in our human mode of communication and understanding. This affirms the iconic/sacramental nature of reality.
Instead of "God," substitute another person's name and see how this works. Our words and images do serve to connect us with others, and we even encounter others through them. Why not so with God? The words and images are not the person, but they are connected with the person and convey something of their presence and intentions.
- see http://shalomplace.org/eve/for...84109896/m/273105797 for a reflection I shared on this years ago.
Thank you for your thoughts.
I wasn't so much struggling as just realizing (I think for the first time) that these thoughts were my own creations and not God. I know it sounds strange to say that I used to think they were God, but I had realized that though consciously I never thought they were God, I did in fact make little or no distinction between them and God unconsciously.
In my waking life, I use holy images of our Lord and the blessed virgin very affectionately but I do so with a true awareness that they are helps but not the actual realities of Our Lord or our lady. Though I know that when I kneel and pray, they really are present in my room. The images helps me to focus and relate to that truth somehow. It is clear to me that this is what I do with mental images too, which is fine.
But beyond the "pictures" or "movies" of Jesus, Mary, the saints in my mind (which I have ease relating to while realizing they are mental icons designed by my mind from the information I have received throughout the years I never used to think of the thoughts themselves as likewise not truth itself either. This is what I realized and was trying to explain above. It's not that I struggled but when I wrote that, I just couldn't help but be starkly aware that these things were not God. Their not being God was highlighted in my mind as if a spotlight was on this truth and I just couldn't relate to them the same way any more.
Funny thing is that the phase is apparently over and I am now in the opposite mode. When I meditate, I do so with impressions of Jesus "living out" whatever truth it is I find myself drawn to. For example, for the past week it has been about my calling to be happy in this world and the next and what that means. How it is independent from my outwards circumstances, how the ego's self-importance or the joy I feel when I "win"/pride/feeling puffed up, is a false happiness, and yesterday as I was meditating, I got this impression that Jesus was telling me all I want from you is the same freedom I have. Freedom to be all that you were called to be.
It's definitely opposite of apophatic because the impressions I have is like a 3D movie of Jesus. I see how he was free, waking up everyday and living his calling fully without worrying about the next day. I "feel" this freedom as I see this, and I have this thought that Jesus is telling me this is all I want from you today, this is why you exist. I know its all the work of my imagination but I truly feel free during and after the meditation and very happy, loss of anxiety and clear impression that nothing in my external situation can "give" me happiness. Even during sorrowful mysteries of rosary, instead of thinking how much Jesus suffered like I used to, I am inclined to see that throughout his suffering, interiorly he was grounded. He knew who he was and did not accept the lies that the world was forcing on him by the crucifixion and he not only stayed grounded in the deep interior truth but also stayed grounded in the truth of the people trying to kill him, their true worth and he loved them through it all. I struggle with a grudge an inability to love someone who has wounded me and I get the impression of Jesus being patient with me through it all and watching me silently and lovingly. So I ask him for that same compassion to do be able to do the same with that person. And so on. images, movies, impressions, feeling, even thoughts. Not apophatic at all. So while aware that these are my mind-movies, I see how God can and does use them to teach me or communicate grace.
I no longer feel an attraction to the former method of darkness or apohatic method. I don't know why, but since I am so much more at peace (with true joy inside a lot of the times), I rather keep on this road and stay away from the apophatic road.
Sorry, I've only just noticed this thread.
The here-now is just a radical version of Jesus' injunction, "Take no thought for the morrow" (Matthew 6:34). I've been thinking recently that Jesus intended for this to be taken very literally. It is a command, not merely a suggestion.
St. Paul says something similar in Philippians 4:6-7. We are commanded not to be anxious about ANYTHING. Since anxiety, by its very nature, refers to being anxious about things outside the present moment, the implication is that we should be present to the here and now ONLY. And the result, says St. Paul in the second of those two verses, is that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Thanks for that insight, Derek, and for your sharing, St. Rubia. I do now have a better understanding of where you're coming from.
It seems the apophatic and kataphatic pathways exist in a kind of tension with one another. Sometimes we are drawn deeply into one as a corrective for excesses in the other. It's only when we realize the limitations of thoughts, symbols, images, etc. (kataphatic spirituality) that we can receive the gifts God blesses us with through these means. There is a content to one's life and religion, and the kataphatic way affirms this. The apophatic way reminds us that this content is but a spark of light -- that God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and that sacred silence is the true ground from which deep awareness and understanding arises.
St. Rubia, have you read St. John of the Cross on this subject? I'm thinking particularly of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, around chapter 8.
I agree with Phil about the tension that can exist. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross have to be read alongside each other.
Hello, Derek. Thank you for your thoughts.
I have not been reading the saints since about 3/4 years ago. I just lost interest. But even when I used to read them, the two Carmelite doctors you mention I never found them easy. I especially don't understand st. John at all. I understand somethings from books that others have written of his teaching, but reading his works is simply too much for me. Like reading another language! I understand the three ways from catholic articles on the subject and the two dark nights in between but that is all. I liked st. Teresa for her straightforward manner, but again, I think I know of her from the commentaries on her teaching. The saint most influential to me was St. Francis de Sales in the devout life. He first taught me to pray/meditate. I heard it a 1000 times and did not understand it till I got his book and followed the instructions on the meditation like a manual. I like to listen to speakers on st. Ignatius of Loyola because the consolation/desolation thing resonates, but I have never read his works either. I only heard Jesuits and fr. Timothy Ghallagher speak about it.
In truth, my spiritual life was very good 5 years ago, I used to do very good spiritual reading and rosary, but then got completely shattered when I ran into a number of difficulties in life and prayer. I lost all my friends, my career plans/dreams for my life fell apart, a parent fell into prolonged fatal illness that was impossible to witness. I just fell back. I lost my felt affection for both our Lord and our lady and I lost hope. Because I never before in my Catholicism, whether serious or lukewarm, I never lost my affection for our lady. whenever I was in trouble, I knew if I called she always managed to get me back to the faith no matter how far I had wandered away. So when I realized that I lost that connection with her in particular, that bond-trust-affection, I despaired and just sank.
For past 3 years, I have been getting back to life of faith in starts and fits. I hope I can continue now that I am on again. I am starting to get back my filial trust in her again, and my loyalty to Christ is returning. When I tried to think once in a serious way, of leaving Christianity, my heart refused! That is, the idea that I should be "away" from or not "belonging" to Jesus any more. I may be in a big mess but willingly letting Jesus go for whatever other purpose is something my heart does not want to and I think (for now at least) something it cannot do even if my head wants to! That experience gave me hope because I realized I had not lost everything after all. Now I think I can start to read again, but I just don't feel like reading those works. I have found non Christian works on compassion, detachment etc Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist writers on suffering, compassion and surrender quite helpful but I am cautious because they are not Christian.
That is a lot of suffering to go through. I feel for you.
Yes, St. Francis de Sales is good, too. A very warm saint.
I've just been reading the "Roman Triptych" by St. John Paul II. There is a passage there which seems to me to be an expression of the Pope's apophatic/metaphysical experience, even though expressed in a theological language.
"Who is He?
He is like an ineffable space which embraces all.
He, the Creator,
embraces everything, summoning to
existence from nothing, not only from
the beginning, but always.
Everything endures continually becoming—
"In the beginning was the Word, and through Him all things were made".
The mystery of the beginning is born together with the Word and is revealed through the Word.
The Word—eternal vision and utterance.
He, who was creating, saw — "saw that it was good",
his seeing different from ours.
He — the first Beholder —
saw, finding in everything some trace
of his Being, his own fullness —
He saw: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius —
true, good and beautiful..."
The sentence which particularly strikes me is:
"Who is He?
He is like an ineffable space which embraces all."
Actually, I was surprised when I saw it in English translation. In Polish it sounds more like:
"There is something like an ineffable space which embraces all".
Perhaps, it is a minor difference, but in the original version there is initially no to God, just an expression of this pure space of Existence. Only later St. John Paul clarifies: "He, the Creator".
Perhaps, this is a little example of transition from the apophatic ("there is an ineffable space") towards the cataphatic ("this is He, the Creator, the Word etc.").
By the way, I also love this beautiful passage about transparency and nakedness of things, when they are saw by the seeing of the Word, in which we can participate sometimes.
I like this very much, Mt. Thanks for sharing that passage from St. John Paul II.
In my new book on "God and I," I wrote something similar.
I've recently been thinking how the most popular proponents of "Christian contemplation", such as Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, and Christian Zen people like John Kennedy, and, of course, Bernadette Roberts, are either on the verge of heretical teaching, or overtly heretical. On Roberts' website there is a clear statement, I don't know when exactly she put it there, that if someone believes that "the man Jesus" is God shouldn't read her books, because they will make them "upset". Well, over a billion people in the world and millions before them, starting from St.John or St. Paul, were and are convinced precisely that Christianity's essence is the belief that "the man Jesus" is God...
This is all sad to me. I'm aware that since the death of Jesus Christ, Christianity was engaged in a perpetual struggle with Gnostic versions of Christianity, which taught exactly those kind of things that are now propounded as "Christian contemplative renewal" etc. In the Middle Ages those Gnostic Christians were, regrettably, burnt on stakes. But now they are published widely as Christian authors and no-one seems to bother anymore. For example, in Poland Catholic publishing houses publish those authors (except for Roberts) without any hesitation, with an "imprimatur". I'm trying to see the value in their teachings (Keating at least tries to remain within the orthodoxy, about others I'm not so sure), since they seem authentic, passionate and possibly opening people up on the contemplative dimension of their faith, but there is something wrong with all this...
That is why I'm grateful to you, Phil, for being essentially the only one among the Christian "contemplatives" who understands the Christian doctrine and does not sell non-dual, Gnostic spirituality as the essence of Christianity. Of course, the very title of your book on kundalini makes many Christians who didn't read it abhor from your teaching, but this is a misunderstanding. Anyway, thanks (thank God!) - this forum testifies to all that.
Thanks for the compliment, Mt. I do believe that Keating and Rohr are committed to articulating the classical Christian tradition on contemplative spirituality. Things do get a bit fuzzy when they speak on Eastern non-dual experiences in relation to contemplation. It's not an easy topic, to be sure.
Is there much interest in contemplative spirituality in Poland? Who are the authors most identified with this topic? I hope Thomas Merton's works are in the mix.
|Powered by Social Strata||Page 1 2 3 4|