Here is an excerpt from some correspondence I sent out today that recycles stuff I've posted here over the years, including my favorite Merton quote (at the bottom).
Insofar as mythopoetic thinking would employ this integral human evaluative
continuum, wherein the nonrational and rational aspects, the noninferential,
preinferential and inferential aspects, the doxastic and propositional
aspects, will have all mutually conditioned the other aspects, none
operating autonomously, then, perhaps, its strength is precisely its holism.
A few years ago, now, in an attempt to describe, for another correspondent,
what I liked so much about both John of the Cross and Thomas Merton, I
What I wish to advocate, here, though, is the notion that we
need to better nurture both the individual and collective
application of our intuitive faculties, especially in our western
spiritualities. None of this is to denigrate the other modes of
contribution. It is offered as an affirmation of what has been too
often neglected, of what we might more often be about in spiritual
a) Tony deMello spent his life teaching the importance of
awareness versus analysis, of insight versus information, perhaps
patterned after the founder of his order, St. Ignatius, who
emphasized the need to "taste" the truth versus merely "knowing" the
b) Oliver Sacks' book and movie, Awakenings, describes how
brain-damaged individuals can be roused out of stupor by music and
art when nothing else can reach them.
c) Amos Wilder: "Imagination is a necessary component of all
profound knowing and celebration ... It is at the level of
imagination that any full engagement with life takes place."
d) Morton Kelsey: "God knew that human beings learn more by
story and music, by art, symbols, and images than by logical
reasoning, theorems, and equations, so God's deepest revelations
have always been expressed in images and stories."
And so, perhaps a different experience of the mystery of God is in
store for the asking. Our growth in freedom, in love ...in awareness
via all faculties, moreso processes ...may ensue.
And I'm making the point, which I am sure many may have heard for
the first time, that St John of the Cross is NOT some
radically apophatic, radically ascetic mystic.
So, who was juandelacruz?
The "Collected Works of St. John of the Cross" translated by
Kavanaugh & Rodriguez (ICS) have a Scriptural Index which reveals
that Juan cited almost every book of the Old & New Testaments in his
writings and the citations number somewhere between 800-1,000 bible
references (I haven't counted but that is a fair estimate)!
It is easy to understand how new students of contemplative
spirituality focus on, what is to them, the novelty of Juan's via
negativa. One would err, however, by failing to take into account
Juan's fidelity to Scripture, Sacraments, Liturgy and almost-
Ignatian emphasis on "God in All Things" and almost-Franciscan
emphasis on creation. (how's that for a litany of kataphatic
Denis Read OCD, an ICS member, calls Juan the "liturgical mystic"
and sanjuanist spirituality "liturgical spirituality." In addition
to Juan's love and fidelity to Scripture, to the Eucharist (one of
greatest personal trials in prison in Toledo was not being able to
celebrate Eucharist) and to the other sacraments (strong emphasis on
reconciliation), Juan quoted the Church's liturgical books
liberally, including hymns, antiphons of the Liturgy of the Hours -
Divine Office, Roman Ritual, etc.
Richard Hardy, PhD in "Embodied Love in John of the Cross"
states: "The question we must answer is whether John is espousing
the goal of an ethereal, "purely spiritual" love, or rather an
embodied love replete with sensuality and delight." Juan's emphasis
on nature, the imagery of his poetry, his relational imagery reveal
a man overflowing with sensuality and delight! He is selling us on
nothing less than Divine Eros and as Hardy says: "in the light of
this erotic love challenges today's Christian to embrace a lifestyle
that risks all for the sake of all."
Juan does NOT move us away from sensory delight but to
purified sensory delight. Juan does not negate the kataphatic
devotion but moves us to transformed devotion. It is reminiscent of
Tony de Mello who would have us not cling to a note, not because the
note is not beautiful, but so we would not miss the symphony. Tony
bids us "Wake Up!" and take it all in!
At any rate, thus it is that, in my view, I can recommend
both Tony deMello and Thomas Merton as authentic guides up the seven-
storied mountain, following precisely in the tradition of the great
mystical doctor, Juan de la cruz.
What are they about? Well, they understand that, if you want to make
a person laugh, you don't order them to laugh, but, rather, you tell
them a joke. If you want to give a person new insights, sometimes
you must give them a koan, or tell them a story, or initiate them
into a myth, or invite them to contemplation.
From Thomas Merton's __The Climate of Monastic Prayer__ :
I remember that Merton quote from The Climate of Monastic Prayer. Isn't that an essay in the back of one of his books? Asian Journal maybe? That is rich!
I agree about John of the Cross that he is both "lights on" and "lights off" at the same time.
The emphasis on apophatic prayer probably comes from our culture being one of the most kataphatic in all of history, and an intuitive need to go in the other direction.
It's like the story of the seeker who goes up the hill to recieve from the guru, and tells him all about his theological doctorate and how he trained
under Freud and Jung and knew Sartre and Camus personally and has a degree in sociology and anthropology, and political science, etc.
The old monk is listening to this as he pours the tea all over the cup and the saucer and the table
and the floor and tells the seeker to come back when his mind is no longer overflowing.
Edited excerpts from Rain and the Rhinoceros by Thomas Merton:
I haven't read much Merton, but I can assure you that I'm biting my tongue to avoid commentating on nothing but his leftist views. I think his philosophical musings in this essay are superb. I think pointing out the game within the game (consumerism, city life) is helpful. To live a valid and valued human life we need to take a step back and look at who we are and what we're doing. But for all practical purposes we're still going to be playing somebody's game to a large extent no matter what we do, where we live, or how we live. If we live in the country there are going to be habits and manners there as well (often stifling, often dirty and impersonal). We weren't angels when we were an agrarian culture. We did inhuman things even without the promptings and stress of crowding. Ask the Mayans. We could ruin the environment without the aid of high technology.
We need philosophers to brush us back from the excesses of our freedoms, of democracy, of capitalism. But if the quality of human life and our environment is the point, then we dare not fantasize about other systems or forms of existence whose soul attribute is that, as any tyranny can do, it can control people to such an extent that someone else's ideal can come to fruition.
A very good question is how we can live a thoughtful, humane, conscious human life in the world, but particularly in a world that is going to be more and more prone to overcrowding and to living in highly unnatural environments such as cities. We can condemn them as inhumane habitats (they often are) but while pavement and carpet may be sterile they are certainly cleaner than dung-covered horse paths. There's an aesthetic beauty to nature, of course, and I'm sure it offers us qualities that the city can never offer. But the city has (or can have) a pleasing aesthetic as well. All people don't live there because they are slaves to capitalism. Many love the hustle and bustle. Therefore I think the question is one of optimizing, improving, and bettering. Merton's critiques do this. They makes people think and to consider, and maybe to reconsider. It's those ugly ruts we get caught in that can do us so much harm�bashing capitalism and technology is one of them.
Here's another Merton article, Balancing Contemplation and Action.
There seems to be very little in today's society that accommodates a quiet or contemplative life. It's taken (and taking) a long time for me to understand that possibly I'm not a freak of nature but just one of those people whose idea of living does not and can not involve an unending succession of 3-ring circuses. That's an exaggeration, but that's how it seems sometimes in this noisy, active, buzzing, busy little world. Except for some of the people I've met here, I've never ran into anyone that was knowingly somewhat like myself (my apologies for the comparison). I always figured, for lack of a better word, that I was shell-shocked from my upbringing. Well, I am that, but that, I now see, is a much smaller factor than I imagined. The bombs in this earlier shell-shocking may have been nothing more than a succession of lady-fingers (if anyone remembers that term for a very small firecracker) but it was the equivalent, at least to me, of a succession of 15,000 lb. daisy cutters.
It goes without saying that I like the idea of being extremely "active", efficacious, and influential without having to travel the globe in my Learjet jumping from adoring crowd to adoring crowd.
Yes. I browsed through the reviews and that certainly looks like an intriguing book. And at 120 pages it�s not too big an investment of time should it not turn out to be to one�s taste. I�m still astonished by the quality of the reviews they post over at Amazon.com, including the ones regarding QC&C. It wouldn�t be fair to say that the following review is the definitive one, but at least for me, when taken in context of the first 10 reviews or so, I think it gives me an idea what to expect:
James Williams� review of Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: As one who is searching for a philosophy that is able to reconcile my rational/empirical side with my deep sense that there exists the Divine, the title of this book caught my attention. I was looking for a theology that would enable me to pass through the doors of a church without leaving my intellectual integrity on the doorstep; could this book offer such an insight? Well, there was real promise in the first few chapters.
Upon reading the words, "Faith may involve a leap, but it's a leap into the light and not the dark," I remembered thinking, "Yes, he's onto something here." The author goes on to state that neither religion nor science deals simply with pure fact or opinion, they are both part of the great human endeavor to understand. Again, a resounding "Yes" was uttered from my lips. I also found favor with his assertion that it is not the vocation of science to make "value" statements however science does acknowledges that value exists. For example, to science, sound is vibrations in the air, but to the appreciative mind some vibrations may be perceived as beautiful music. Value perceptions are just as much a part of our reality as empirical evidence. This is an important distinction and this point alone could have been the basis of a very coherent argument for the appreciation of each discipline thereby eliminating their fight for a monopoly on Truth.
He does present some other worthwhile illustrations, for example his analogy of prayer to laser light (you'll have to read it) but for the most part the remainder of the book gets bogged down with age-old arguments of mind-body dualism, "proof" of God's existence, the problem of evil, and the literal interpretation of the Resurrection of Jesus. I remembered thinking on occasion, "where is he going with this and what was the original intent of this book?" He makes some rather obvious contradictions and frequently gets caught in the same "God of the Gaps" logic that he rejected earlier in his writings. The book struggles to stay coherent but looses the battle in the final 3-4 chapters. I was left with the feeling that the author's theology was somewhat na�ve and would benefit from a good dose of Alfred North Whitehead. Just my opinion.
It seems obvious that there are so many misconceptions to be cleared up, and books like this seem to do that wonderfully. On the other hand, there are some questions that, at least to my mind, defy a satisfactory answer. I would think one would gain an even greater appreciation for this after reading this book.
Thanks for the Merton article, Brad. I think sometimes if we just stepped back and read about how Jesus conducted Himself, we'd have the answer to what a contemplative/active life is. Merton touches on it some in that article. Jesus always went away to be alone for a time...contemplation. The rest of the time He was about His business...healing, feeding, preaching, and just plain old fellowship with His followers. A lot of folks balk at the word "contemplative" as though it is some freakish term (mostly Protestants..sigh), but there is truly a way that all of us can be active and contemplative at the same time. It would be a mistake to think that ecstasy is expected all the time, and I don't believe that's what "mystics" put forth as a message. A deep interior life can be carried on throughout the tasks of the day...much like Brother Lawrence wrote about.
For those of us who were raised out in the sticks, the "busy city" life seems almost heretical..ROFL...sorry..couldn't resist .
A deep interior life can be carried on throughout the tasks of the day�
Coincidentally, Terri, I was thinking about this as well. And by reading a little Merton a couple helpful notions or realizations came to mind.
I tend to get rattled easily when faced with a number of tasks to do at the same time�and I think I now know why. What I do is to try to rush through them all at once�and the purpose of that is to get them all done PRONTO so that I can, ahhhhhh, fall back into a more relaxed, contemplative pace. That�s just the natural state I think I want to be in and to fight it (as I think I have been doing) doesn�t do anybody any good.
Rushing through things is certainly no way to cultivate any kind on interior life, and the fact is these days that it�s becoming extremely difficult to avoid the noise and busyness. Knock on wood, but once I realized sort of what I was doing I found that it helped to slooooow down and do one task at a time while thinking of none of the others that needed doing.
Merton said: But because he is willingly enclosed and limited by the laws and illusions of collective existence, he has no more identity than an unborn child in the womb. He is not yet conscious. He is alien to his own truth. He has senses, but he cannot use them. He has life, but no identity
It is so difficult to disentangle one�s self from the habits and expectations of one�s surroundings. Ultimately to nurture that deep interior life we have to risk the disapproval of others. There�s no other way. Until we�re living for ourselves I think it�s seriously debatably whether we can ever really live for others.
I tend to get rattled easily when faced with a number of tasks to do at the same time�and I think I now know why. What I do is to try to rush through them all at once�and the purpose of that is to get them all done PRONTO so that I can, ahhhhhh, fall back into a more relaxed, contemplative pace.
Holy cow! I am EXACTLY like that! Your discovery about slowing down and doing one thing at a time is the same conclusion I came to. It's sort of like making a checklist in my mind and accomplishing something, checking it off, move on to the next thing, etc. It keeps me calm, helps me do a better job, and surprisingly, it gives me not only peace but a sense of well-being as the day progresses. Cool, huh?
Rats, I forgot to add something. A monk once told me that if we truly lived Christ, people would run to Him. I believe the way he put it was that we should bring Jesus up out of the book instead of leaving Him as merely words on paper. In that way His love would be lived as a witness rather than only being talked about.
I think that�s great advice, Terri, but in doing so I think one should be prepared to accept that it might take a lot of surprising and unusual forms as it comes "up out of the book."
Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I�ve virtually made it through the first part of "Abandonment" and am just a few pages away from the Second Part (which is a bunch of letters�I might skip this part. I don�t know). I have almost too many highlighted parts to, err, highlight for you, but here�s one short one the caught my eye:
I thought that just having SOME mechanism for dealing with faults and fears (which are otherwise so crippling for me) was a biggie. Hope you are enjoying that book if you�ve gotten to it yet.
My love for Johnboyisms hasn�t waned, and I don�t think it ever will. [Although, truth be told, I think he stole that one from Buddha.]
My friend, let me add one more to that.
Or just phone for Chinese take-out
No, there�s absolutely no deep meaning to that. And that is the meaning.
I think he met Buddha on a road somewhere, killed him, and now has copyright.
I think he met Buddha on a road somewhere, killed him, and now has copyright.
Got him with both barrels, no doubt. WC, I might not be around that much in the near future, but I do care about how you're doing. Please feel free to private message me or, better yet, hit the ol' "firstname.lastname@example.org" button. Of course, much like JB, just when I say I�m going to be scarce is when I'll likely be a bigger blabber-mouth then ever.
May you re-incarnate soon, and often. But have a refreshing reprieve while away.
Hi Phil, I am fascinated by this diagram and would like to ask some questions... I am really interested in understanding the components of our being, in particular: the spirit, soul, body, "heart", and "flesh". In the "zone of consciousness", do you think this part of the diagram can shift and move around, expand and contract? Can it expand to overlap more in the spirit area of the diagram, and vise versa?
One more question, it seems that Scripture indicates we are composed of three parts, body-soul-spirit... but these three are distinct and not separate, they are somehow connected and integrated, I think... what are your thoughts on this? Do you think our human spirit, as joined with the Holy Spirit, can grow and expand as we grow and mature spiritually, and can our spirit radiate beyond the limits of our own body? (hope that wasn't confusing)
Hi Caneman. Good to hear from you again.
I do think that "zone of consciousness" can shift, move, grow, or shrink. One of the outcomes of spiritual practice is its expansion and integration with the various levels of our being.
I don't think the Bible's teaching on body, soul (psyche) and spirit was intended as a kind of metaphysical philosophy, but it is very much akin to the view above of organism (physical, physiological), psyche (animal soul) and spirit. We find this kind of tripartite view of human nature in other places as well, such as Hinduism's view of gross, astral and causal bodies. The way the teaching evolved in at least one branch of Christian philosophy and theology (the scholastics) was to view the spiritual soul as containing and informing the functioning of the animal and vegetable levels, while preserving their domains of lawfulness. As such, the human spirit does reach beyond the realms of intelligence and freedom available to psyche and organism, transcending space and time. That's the reality that psychic gifts, in particular, give testimony to.
In response to your question about the Holy Spirit, I do indeed believe that our human spirit is taken into the Holy Spirit, which becomes the new principle of life for the soul, integrating it into Christ's risen body. That's the new birth and regeneration about which Scripture teaches, especially Paul.
You might check out the following links on this site for more reflection on this topic.
- http://shalomplace.com/res/bodies.html (a Hindu perspective)
- http://shalomplace.com/res/anthrp.html (contrasts Hindu and scholastic viewpoints)
Hi Phil & group:
I've been reading this thread and the question keeps coming to me, at what level of development were the people who have decided what it means to be a Christian. Or for that matter, what information was going to be permitted in the Bible and what wasn't. What level of development were the people who decided the basis of what a Protescent believes or a Catholic. How about the meaning of the Trinity.
i would like to be able to go back to the source of issues, such as babies are born evil. I'd like to be able to review how this became accepted within Protescent beliefs. It doesn't agree with my experience.
I'm just wondering if these types of questions have been explored on this list already Phil or where i might read more. Please remember though i'm not well read in this and would like to start with something not deeply technical. It seems to me that
these people would need to be at the highest
level of development yet i question things now.
Phil stated "I think MM was meaning to affirm the Catholic position (in contrast to the Protestant) that human beings are created good, but are wounded by Original Sin, which biases us toward moral and spiritual evil (some moreso than others, dependening opn the depth of the wounding). The prevailing Protestant view is that we are fundamentally evil because of Original Sin, until saved by Christ in some manner. So the Catholic view is that we are good/bad, fallen/redeemed, and that from the get-go."
Hi all �
The person ... an interesting topic, and one close to my heart. So without wishing to lead discussion astray, may I propose, perhaps, an offshoot of this discussion?
I would suggest an overview of Christian (essentially Hebraic, ie scriptural) Anthropology, very briefly to outline the differences between the Hebrew holistic idea of 'the person', as opposed to the Hellenic idea, which so often unconsciously infuses Christian thinking, and which is fundamentally dualistic. I think much of the question and confusion that can arise from such topics as this is the tendency, when discussing spirit/matter issues, to polarise the two too much, easily done when using Greek or Asiatic philosophical perspectives.
Ajoy, most of the questions you raise have threads ongoing. Use the search link at the top right of each forum page to track them down.
Welcome, Thomas. Good points you make about the Hebrew view of person being holistic, but contrasting it with the Greek is a little too general, I believe. Aristotle and Plato differed significantly, so using the term "Hellenic idea" is much too general. The Aristotelian/Thomistic view is very holistic while acknowledging the reality of physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of human nature. Bernard Lonergan's work (the basis for the "perspectives" described in the opening posts of this thread) builds on Thomas' metaphysics, and keeps a holistic view intact.
Phil thank you.
I didn't know about this really
great feature on this forum.
Thomas thank you for your suggestion. Will explore..
Hi Phil �
Yes, I was generalising somewhat, but only to pick out a general trend in the sense that one can slip into a Hellenic (and somewhat gnostic) body/soul duality somewhat unintentionally.
From experience this can colour theological and ecumenical dialogue (especially between Christianity and Buddhism) ... I tend to favour the idea of 'person' rather than 'self' because the latter sometimes misses the essential distinctions between the two traditions ... but again, this is baggage brought with me.
And you know Lonergan! Than apologies in advance, I'm sure I shall be pestering you down the line!
I am generally regarded as a Christian Neoplatonist (a la St Maximus the Confessor), so that might give you some idea of my thinking. But a very amateur one.
Apologies also for jumping straight in � there's a lot of background reading here, so I shall have a few hours of delight to look forward to.
No problem, Thomas. The opening post notes the reference to Daniel Helminiak's work; he's a former student of Lonergan and makes use of Lonergan's perspective in his writings.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
This is not a reply yet a new topic post.I occasionally ask Biblical research questions via various Engines and get howlingly disparate answers.I've heard so many versions of how many apostles were and or were not married and who if any had children that I honestly would trust Rona Barrett's opinion.They obviouslt seek to undermine the sincere vocations of Roman Catholic Priests and Nuns.That not said with exclusivizing ignorance.Ibegan studying the Bible during 2000 and one thing is culturally clear.Fools attatch bizarre socio political nature to the Apostles and to Christ such that while reading the New Testament cheap shot false emphasis is placed upon any verses that can be invertedly rigged for ambiguous meaning.Some actually want Christ's and the Apostles' legacies to be thought Pink.I have one quote that proves and ends the chattle trap.Paul near the end of his ministry says that while leaving many hugged and actually kissed him and he doesn't bother to engender if they were women or not.The matter that isn't a matter is ended with Paul Corinthians 1 verse 5 comment with his knocked of his horse humility plaintively asking can't he and the other apostles travel with a spiritual sister and or wife.Read it and if it applies weep you pink desiring fools!Apostolic accounts love them or leave them.That means do not perverse and or inverse them.These words from a non crowd pleasing heterosexual thus no ignorant intolerance accusations please.Ihave idealistically presumed that the Internet is a source of attemptive serious Biblical research.Majoritively I have witnessed it a ridiculous invariably jungle mentality while doing Biblical research.The fools would rather discuss between the lines which actresses are dating who.If she was really hot she'd have out her magnifying glass looking for answers to stoke her vaunted loins .I'm saying it-I wouldn't mess with witness of Christ's legacy and He'd be the first to wish any man and or woman well for the zenith of their heterosexual passion if they'd just not mix witness with cultural obssessions.Don't forget read Paul's Corinthian 1 verse 5.Take care and God bless the blessed!Absolutely no twisted parallels!Absolutely straight Forward!Gary V. Giardina!God only knows straight forward time zones while He reveals those who disrespect anyone who isn't bothering them.
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