[QUOTE]Originally posted by aj:
"Having never been conscious of contemplative prayer, I cannot speak from experience. From what I have read and heard, contemplation is a state in which the ego-self is not present in order to make room for the God-Self. If this is true, can an egocentric experience a state of contemplative prayer?"
Perhaps there is another way of looking at this question. Rather than wondering how to experience a God-Self, what about wondering how to experience God? Put that way, the answer, at least to my mind, becomes much simpler. Because Matthew says:
18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
If a child is the model citizen of the Kingdom, I can think of no more egocentric a creature. You have only to take a child to a store to know that. At the same time, I can think of no more trusting and self-abandoning a creature. You have only to experience for the first time a child throwing himself through the ear saying "Catch me" and expecting the catch to happen to know that.
When I read, "Surprisingly, I got a lot of guidance through mindfulness-based chronic pain management classes." I had an amused recognition. My journey inward was aided by my pain in the neck.
I like what you said about children being, "trusting and self-abandoning." They are very receptive.
CrystalAmber et al.
I'm new to the forum and pleased to see this thread reopened.
Regarding your Matthew quote. I've often heard Jesus' quote explained in terms of a child's natural openness and questioning - Why is it this way? What does it mean? - as they try to understand the world around them. Unless we ask these questions - like a child would, we cannot understand why we are separated from heaven. That resonates, but my understanding of the child metaphor includes the admonition that the original Self has be be regained - who we were before we developed the defensive ego - or we cannot remember what heaven is.
As an aside, contemplation has been at the center of my life since I was a child - many decades, now - but my approach and understanding appears so radically different from what I have read in the discussion above, that it may have no relevance here. I can't answer the first three questions posed by Phil in 2002 without being excessively boring.
But, regarding question #4, contemplation for me is concerned with self-knowledge - examining the relationship between ego and the external reality as a means to achieve unity. The kingdom of heaven is within. While the "mysteries" of Christian symbolism have always been the most helpful personally - because of familiarity, I have often found the symbols from other cultures, myths, and religions equally potent on the spiritual journey. I understand those metaphors and symbols as explaining truths about the relationship between mind and matter before a language of psychology and physics existed. They may be still in their infancy, (are certainly not equal to the spiritual knowledge embodied in our religious texts) but are helpful in communicating the meaning of ancient stories and metaphors.
Phil, If you think I should try another thread, please suggest one. Thanks.
Welcome Mystic Maze. Just browse around, or use the search option to find what interests you. Looking forward to hearing more from you.
1. Which of the three broad spiritual highways do you think you�re traveling?
My path is definitely the monastic one. While I am not currently a member of any monastic order, I do plan to join the Carmelite order as a secular once I've undergone the proper catchesis and initiation into the Catholic Church. I feel God speaks to me most clearly in silence when I am alone, and I find apophatic mystical theology and contemplative prayer mirrors my own experience and approach to God, especially the kind I see in the Desert Fathers tradition (i.e. John Cassian, Evagrius Ponticus), in the Carthusian tradition (the Cloud of Unknowing) and in the Carmelite tradition, especially in St John of the Cross.
2. What�s easier for you: to find God manifesting within or outside yourself?
I feel for me it is a mixture of both. I frequently feel God very strongly when I see creation, and God's ever speaking 'Word' bringing it all into being and sustaining it. Other times I feel God within as a strong prescence of love in the heart of the soul which burns very strongly.
3. How do you understand the relationship between spirituality and religion?
My understanding is much like that of the monastics. The masters of monastic spirituality emphasize the need to accept dogmas in the 'kergymatic' way while these dogmas have a deeper meaning which is ineffable and can only be understood when experienced. Because God is incomprehensible the imagery of darkness is very important when talking about God, but dogmas make sure the dangers of the mystical path are avoided.
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