Thanks for the advice, gentlemen. I think there may be some emotional/psychological thing involved as well and some quite time and journalling may probably do me a lot of good and bring clarity. At the end of it all, I think I still consider myself as belonging to Jesus of Nazareth, even though how that is is fuzzy to my mind at the moment. I'm setting aside some time for prayer
St Rubia, would it help to talk it out on Skype? I'm told my active listening skills are first class.
We just believe it without "seeing," St. Rubia, because He has claimed us as His own through Baptism and faith.
Hi, St Rubia, It was when you mentioned journaling that I suddenly thought, "Oh, maybe you would get more out of talking it out rather than just sitting with it." I am trained in both Rogerian counselling and in primal therapy, though the real training in listening comes, I believe, from clearing out my own "stuff" in primal therapy in the early 90s. A voice-only (no video) Skype call might allow you to maintain your privacy and would probably work better on a technical level, too. You probably already know that active listening (simple reflection) has the miraculous power to move people forward. But I quite understand that you might prefer to write it out for your eyes only.
I think I would like to take advantage of your offer. I will let you know as soon as I set up skype on my computer. I hope you haven't changed your mind...and that you don't mind my accent!
Sure. By coincidence, someone else is coming for an Active Listening session this Saturday at 3 p.m. London time (GMT), so 4 p.m. would be a possibility. In any case, I will send you a PM with my email and my Skype id, so that we can make the arrangements.
No problem about your accent. I grew up in the UK, where it was much more common to hear South African accents than it is here in Canada.
I thought this piece on Thomas Merton and his treatment of Catholicism and Buddhism at spiritualdirection.com would be relevant to this discussion. I don't know any of Thomas Merton's works and I can't say where I fall in this debate about the orthodoxy of his works. What do you gentlemen think of him and his approach to Buddhism? Here's the link.
Apparently, Fr. Barron also did a piece on him, linked there. From what I gather in the discussion/comments below the above-linked article, his treatment of the late monk is more favourable than the spiritualdirection.com article. Here:
And video: http://www.wordonfire.org/reso...iritual-master/4670/
I've read a great deal of Merton, including books like Zen and the Birds of Appetite, in which he dialogues with a zen master about prayer, meditation, Christianity and Buddhism. I'm not aware of any writings or teachings of his that go against Catholic teaching.
He did love Buddhism, but more its spirituality than some of its metaphysical teachings like reincarnation. Zen practices emphasizing awareness and the present moment made a strong impression on him, but he did not conflate this with contemplation. He noted similarities, but also named the differences.
I think Merton is a good guide to Christian contemplative spirituality in dialogue with other religions and even with Western politics and economics.
It's years and years since I read Thomas Merton, but I get the idea that he had a romanticized picture of Buddhism, drawn largely from his reading of its more poetic expressions. I agree with Phil that he wasn't really into the teachings. In fact, all of Thomas Merton is like that. He throws out ideas and plays with them for a while, but in the end he is more of an artist than a systematic thinker.
During the past few years, I've broken significantly from Christian contemplative writers who strongly emphasize non-duality and enlightenment-type states as being "higher" states of union with God and something we should be striving for. I don't think they are higher at all, though they surely can be helpful and healing in many ways, especially in moving one's center of consciousness away from Ego-Persona concerns toward a deeper alignment between the Ego and its deeper roots in Self and God.
It is Egoic consciousness that develops the potentiality of the intellect and will to enable humans to be co-creators of the world with God, and to experience ourselves as individual persons with a dignity of our own. If the Ego loses touch with its Ground and latches onto some idea of itself to promote, that's a problem, for sure. But the recognition of this and conversion are the responsibility of the Ego, which must learn to become open to God's presence and guidance.
Non-egoic (non-dual) consciousness is attuned to the interconnectedness of creation, but it is capable of accomplishing very little without Egoic integration. Where this is discouraged, one will find such people to be not very individuated or capable of doing critical thinking. Without critical thinking, one cannot make authentic decisions or live responsibly.
So my conclusion is that Egoic consciousness is more distinctively human and actually a "higher" state than any kind of non-reflecting state, especially if there's alignment between the Ego and God. Because one is definitely aware of oneself as an individual subject and agent of one's choices and actions in the Ego, it follows that all states of consciousness in which one has no such sense of self ought not be regarded as higher. They might be natural (as in sleep or certain ecstatic experiences, mystical and other) or altered states (as with drugs), but they ought not be considered the measure of our humanity, nor even our spirituality.
I'm a bit surprised by your claim that these states are not higher, but even lower, in a way. I'd like to share my views on that. Perhaps, we think similarly, but I'd not say that the enlightened states are generally not an achievement for what you call "ego".
First of all, from a purely "natural" point of view (which, as we know, doesn't really exist due to the original sin and God's salvific activity), I strongly believe that enlightened states, as long as they are authentic, are always higher than egoic consciousness, since egoic consciousness in its highest reaches is at the level of reasoning soul and enlightened consciousness is an intuitive insight into the existence of the soul and through this - existence of the world and existence of God. Of course, from a purely Thomistic stance, they are even "unnatural", in the sense, that it is not natural for our soul to try to look directly at oneself, instead to direct attention to the reality via the senses.
Second, from the actual state of things, namely the original sin and grace, any graced state of consciousness/will is radically higher than non-graced states, albeit naturally lofty. Perhaps, that's what you mean in your post. Any Christian who is in the state of sanctifying grace is objectively united to God and the Trinity dwells in him through faith, hope and charity. This is miraculous! It is invisibile to most of us, but those incredible mysteries are happening in our depths.
So I'd see it this, if we imagine a purely theoretical spiritual journey:
1. Deeply disordered existence, without any desire to pursue spiritual goods.
2. An authentic existence, but without natural mystical consciousness and without grace of faith (perhaps, some secular, humanist life of a "good man").
3. An authentic existence plus natural mystical consciousness, which would be a sort of "good enlightened man", without the grace of faith.
4. a life of faith, with or without natural or supernatural mystical consciousness, deepening according to the level of theotic transformation.
- purgative way
- illuminative way
- unitive way
5. divine, eternal life of God, beatific vision
- intermediate state after death of the body
- fully resurrected state of those who will dwell in the New Earth and Heaven
And we have to take into account three things.
- that there are some people who enjoy natural mystical states apparently without any personal transformation, a kind of perverted, sinful "mystics" (which would be called by Merton "false mystics") - here also those who had mystical graces but rejected them and wasted them.
- that there are people who are baptized or even receive holy communion, but there is no personal transformation in their life - it is basically a state of mortal sin - again, graces wasted.
- that there are people who are not baptized and don't have a conscious faith in Christ, but we believe that they are in a state of grace in some mysterious way. I have some problem with understanding that, since what it really means to have unconscious faith? Is it possible? But the Church teaches that there are those "whose faith is known only to God".
What do you think of this working classification?
That's just a great post, Mt. Thanks for taking the time to lay out your perspective so clearly.
A few responses, hoping the discussion will continue, as we're beginning to put our finger on the core issues, I believe.
Yes! But I don't think "intuitive insight" is separate from reason, but, rather, the intellect's first, non-reflecting grasp of a truth, directly and holistically. One cannot live by such insights alone, however, for we are not angels. They need to be tested in the light of Scripture and Church teaching, for we know that many who have "intuitions" have been led astray. They also need to be incarnated and lived out, and this requires Egoic involvement. So my main point is that this Egoic integration is a higher state of consciousness, entailing much more self-investment and commitment than an intuitive insight, mystical or otherwise. This is not to deny the gratuitous nature of such insights, of course.
I think my paragraph above might shed some light on this.
Again, no transformation at the level of the Ego, which is necessary to incarnate the gifts of the Spirit. (Rm. 12:1-2)
Rahner's "anonymous Christians." Implicit rather than Christian faith. The way I understand this is that the Spirit is working in all people to bring forth in them a likeness of Christ, and any time we consent/co-operate with the Spirit, we become more divinized (theosis). Obviously, it helps to see and consciously attain to that true goal, which is manifest in Jesus, and to consciously open oneself to Him in explicit faith. But many have not heard of Him, or have received distorted teaching and rejected Christianity. Still, the Spirit works in them to lead them along.
Vatican II had a marvelous reflection on this in terms of conscience.
Pope Francis has stated several times that even atheists can be saved through this fidelity to the Spirit in conscience.
I've now put that (along with all my other little articles) up on my homepage.
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