Let me characterize this post as something of a "note to self" from the road re: a topic I'd like to more fully explore, later, with others who may be interested.
In our Catholic social justice approach there has been remarkable growth in our methodologies as I have documented elsewhere (at the ethos_eros link at the bottom of this post, for example. Scroll down, about half way, where it is subtitled: The Witnesses to Revelation & New Methodologies). These new methodologies reflect updated understandings that provide a better bridge to interreligious dialogue and dialogue with the modern world. They have not been adapted, however, to our classical moral theology, which remains stuck in old categories, essentialisms and legalisms, in many ways, although not wholly unimproved.
Now, when it comes to spiritual theology, which is a practical discipline, moral theology, ascetical theology and mystical theology should form an integral whole, even though, traditionally, they represent rather sharply distinguished areas of study. What I'd like to more fully explore is how our traditional categories in spiritual theology writ large might be updated in a manner that does not jettison the insights of the past but that deepens our understanding of our tradition.
For example, what does it mean to articulate a more robustly Christocentric inclusivism over against an ecclesiocentric exclusivism? How would these reflections inform, for example, sanjuanist categories, Maritain's distinctions and Merton's experiences vis a vis East-West contemplative dialogue? Might some of the old categories be, indeed, untenable, as we compare and contrast the spirituality of East and West, or even try to depeen our understanding of such distinctions as have been controversial even within our tradition, like that between infused and acquired contemplation?
If, as I have suggested elsewhere, an inclusivistic Christocentrism is best understood as our tradition gifting us with the ways and means to move more swiftly and with less hindrance to our unitive destinations, to more nearly perfectly articulate truth in creed, more nearly perfectly celebrate beauty in ritual or cult, more nearly perfectly preserve goodness in code or law, more nearly perfectly enjoy fellowship and community in unity, better avoiding dogmatism, ritualism and legalism, avoiding, at the same time, any facile syncretistic blending of traditions, any false interreligious irenicism, any insidious indifferentism toward traditions, any imprecise cartography in our mapping of moral, ascetical and mystical experiences in our spiritualities ...
Then, does that mean that we are in any manner also suggesting that we must necessarily view other traditions as if they otherwise differed from our own with respect to our unitive destinations, themselves, however ultimate or proximate, however fleeting or enduring?
Certainly, as it pertains to our ultimate unitive destinations, in terms of ultimate salvific efficacy (getting to heaven), we in no way maintain any distinction between religions, even as we maintain our giftedness in moving more swiftly and with less hindrance with our explicit faith. At least we have updated this vision since Vatican II and its document regarding nonChristian religions. We trust that even nonbelievers, explicit atheists, can be saved by living the good and moral life.
I am precisely thinking that we must be open, in a similar way, to breaking open our old categories of ascetical and mystical theology over against what I have been calling an ecclesiocentric pneumatological exclusivism. And this is to suggest that it is indeed untenable to maintain distinctions that would suggest that, while we may indeed move more swiftly and with less hindrance with our explicit faith toward our more proximate unitive destinations, let's say in terms of mystical experience and infused contemplation, for example, we may not want to a priori and categorically deny the flowering of those unitive strivings that are informed only by implicit faith, which, when animated by love, are undeniably guided by the Holy Spirit.
If we view grace as transmuted experience (Don Gelpi) and not thematically, as do the transcendental thomists (Rahner), then, there is a greater sense of urgency, perhaps, to evangelize the world with the Good News so as to gift others with the benefits of explicit faith, that they may move more swiftly and with less hindrance to the blossoming of unitive experiences, infused contemplation and mystical graces, of which their natural mysticism certainly places them on the threshold, and where, as the Spirit moves, the threshold is most certainly crossed, from time to time? The distinctions between grace as transmuted experience (Peircean) and thematic grace (Rahner & Lonergan) I must leave to the academics. Whetever the case may be, we needn't deny all the giftedness of our own tradition even as we affirm the rays of truth in others. And, of course, we remain mindful of the caveats I listed re: syncretism, indifferentism, irenicism, imprecisions in mapping across traditions.
I put the question of how to properly interpret what Fr. Rohr meant by infused or natural contemplation, as employed in the Tolle article, to a friend. As a result, I just got a response from Fr. Rohr.
In a nutshell, Fr. Rohr follows the newer teachers, Rahner and Merton. If you refer back to the explications I have provided by the Merton biographer, Shannon, regarding natural contemplation as mystical, and by Larkin, who describes Rahner's conception of "infused," then you will properly gather Fr. Rohr's meaning.
Also, his meaning is consistent with the excerpts below.
Who Can Be A Mystic?
As I mentioned previously, a major critique of this Rahnerian outlook is provided by Fr. Don Gelpi, my fellow Yat, from New Orleans: Two Spiritual Paths: Thematic Grace vs. Transmuting Grace . And, as I said before, I am busy struggling to reconcile these perspectives. Gelpi's theological anthropology is derived from Peirce, who, in turn, also relied somewhat on Scotus. This melds my Franciscan and Scotistic sensibilities quite well, in a systematic way, with my Peircean approach. Then, what am I to make of Merton and Rahner and the neo-thomists, both existential thomists and transcendental thomists? And I am thinking this answer might be found in the analytical thomist approach. And I think my immediately prior post speaks to the proper reconciliation of these issues via new methodologies. The older categories and classical terminology was derived from older methodologies and metaphysics badly in need of update and revision.
Wow, this thing about Rohr just won't go away, will it?
I'll just reference this post again wherein I thoroughly parse Rohr's essay on Tolle and how he qualifies his terms within the essay and in reference to Tolle's writings. It's a confusing piece of writing, imo. And consider the absurdity of readers needing to know all the background that you've worked so hard to provide to clarify his meanings! Rohr's endorsement of Tolle comes through, but one is left wondering how he sees Tolle with reference to the Christian spiritual tradition. In one place, Tolle is saying what the Fathers said and we've lost, in another he's not teaching Christian prayer, in another it's natural mysticism (or "contemplative practice), which is somehow different from natural contemplation (aka infused contemplation). Okey dokey! It's a bad piece of writing, JB. Check out the detailed critique I posted above; I don't know if you read it on the other forum.
Good to read your clarifications, however. It would be great if Rohr took the time to re-write his little essay on Tolle to qualify his terminology more carefully.
"...in another he's not teaching Christian prayer, in another it's natural mysticism (or "contemplative practice), which is somehow different from natural contemplation (aka infused contemplation)."
I understand Eckhart Tolle's teaching to be identical to Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating.. but then I don't think you like him either.
LOL. Well, that's not exactly true, Katy. I consider Fr. Thomas a friend, and I've recommended his books many times. We've critiqued CP extensively on this forum -- mostly the way some of the teachers present it. And about the only issue I've ever raised from Fr. Thomas' writing is this chapter from The Mystery of Christ where he speaks of the final things. We've already been over that one in the Bernadette Roberts' discussion thread, so no need to break it open again, here.
Btw, where did you hear that Tolle's meditative method is identical to CP? I've never run across that one.
Phil, somewhere along the line I got the impression you didn't agree much with his teachings.
Someone I know who is well acquainted with C.P. and also Tolle's books first brought that to my attention, and then I saw for myself when I re-read the book. If you read the Power of Now very carefully you would see the similarity.. at least in my way of thinking they are saying the same thing. O.K... not identical but similiar.
My False-Self is SO embarrassed from having used theoretical jargon when addressing general audiences in the past and my writing has been SO poor (mea maxima culpa), allow me to defer and demur on style issues.
Once again ...
With Scotus and the Franciscans, one will already view the world through radically incarnational lenses. Magnify that view through Merton and Rahner, where the world is not divided into natural and supernatural, secular and sacred, where there is ONLY the supernatural, where ALL experience the Holy Spirit, the Divine Indwelling and Infused Contemplation, then any reference to the natural refers to the object of contemplation and not the origin, then any reference to the extraordinary refers to differences in degree and not in kind, then the distinction that comes to the fore is whether or not the experience is conscious or unconscious, whether or not one's faith is explicit or implicit.
No one has ascribed explicit faith to Tolle. There is no reason to a priori conclude that ascetical disciplines, practices, methods or prayer forms of the East do not lead to experiences of God that are infused. Neither is there a reason to conclude that, when they do, Eastern practitioners are obliged to use the categories of an explicit Christian faith to describe their experiences. It is absurd to suggest that I mean to say any such thing. That one might be inspired toward a contemplative stance toward the world by Tolle and would thereby experience a blossoming of infused contemplation, does not mean that one has necessarily been formed by our explicit teachings, only that one has implicitly grasped same. Rohr makes clear that Tolle is not employing Christian doctrine or making explicitly Chrsitian references.
As I said before, I'd imagine that Fr. Rohr would be the first to admit to inartful expression on occasion. The salient point that I have been trying to get across is that there is all the difference in the world between that and what you were characterizing as a snafu re: infused contemplation, suggesting that he was not merely confusing but confused. I was not surprised that my benefit of the doubt was well warranted in that regard vis a vis Larkin, Rahner, Shannon and Merton. Only if one employs a sanjuanist rather than rahnerian glossary will this and other distinctions remain confounding. Not to say there may not be other nicks worth picking but I'll leave that exercise to others. Rohr's general audience isn't confused, I'll bet. I'm certain they glossed over such distinctions other than to grasp the overall thrust of keep the wheat, toss the chaff. Still others may have Googled - infused contemplation - and read the very first hit, which is wikipedia:
The nonjudgmental awareness of our stream of consciousness ... Fr. Keating's description of our thoughts and feelings as little boats that we observe floating away ... that type of dynamic comes to mind, eh Katy? It is a way to attain what we might call a metacognitive stance, a method for cultivating detachment over against what John of the Cross called disordered appetities, what Ignatius called inordinate attachments. Faith, itself, is metarational or superrational, a Third Eye beyond senses, feelings and rational thought. Thus we loosen the grip of the False Self so our True Self may also have a turn at the wheel.
JohnBoy That is all just too deep for me. All I know is that Keating and Tolle , in my understanding are saying to live in the present. In Jesus words, don't worry about the future, and forget those things which are behind.
Thanks JB.. by the way I like your picture.
From Johnboy: As I said before, I'd imagine that Fr. Rohr would be the first to admit to inartful expression on occasion. The salient point that I have been trying to get across is that there is all the difference in the world between that and what you were characterizing as a snafu re: infused contemplation, suggesting that he was not merely confusing but confused. I was not surprised that my benefit of the doubt was well warranted in that regard vis a vis Larkin, Rahner, Shannon and Merton. Only if one employs a sanjuanist rather than rahnerian glossary will this and other distinctions remain confounding. Not to say there may not be other nicks worth picking but I'll leave that exercise to others.
My question to you and all these others is why wouldn't one employ a sanjuanist rather than Rahnerian glossary as St. John is the one who used the term first (i.e., before Rahner) and his sense of the term has been the standard for the past 400 years?
Rohr's general audience isn't confused, I'll bet. I'm certain they glossed over such distinctions other than to grasp the overall thrust of keep the wheat, toss the chaff.
I acknowledged that. It's clear that he's giving a tacit endorsement to Tolle's work and is attempting to say that it's not really the same as "Christian prayer." I did get that! Still, there are numerous problems with some of what he says and how he qualifies his terms, as I've noted on other threads.
I've done a little more research on Merton's understanding of contemplation and found this on Arraj's website:
So can we please -- pretty please with a cherry on top! -- for purposes of communication, say that, on this forum, "infused contemplation" means what John of the Cross and virtually ever Catholic spiritual writer since that time means by the term? There might be confusion about "acquired contemplation" or "natural contemplation" but not "infused." It's the gold standard of apophatic Christian mystical experiences, and the terminology has been fairly standardized for quite some time.
Lots of excellent reflection on human nature, true self, false self, etc. in this article by Thaddeus J. Trenn. Check it out.
Excellent, excellent.. thank you.
Since as I said at another place, I broke my foot and are still recovering right now, I have the time to go to the library to find all these excellent exchanges on this forum.
I expect this is probably not the place to bring in following topic, but this is what happened.
With all the pain in my chest (more than my foot!), I went to a homeopathist, who couldn't help me before with homeopathy, but who now makes use of: http://www.nutrienergetics.com/.
I didn't know it before but this is really revolutionary in the field of body-mind integration, quantum biology and so forth...
I went through very difficult emotional stuff, but since some days I am feeling better and better, more free as if I am gradually leaving prison. Since I am home, I have also been doing a lot of Jesus Prayer and Rosary Prayer without reading too much, which is surely one of my pitfalls. At the same time I got fascinated by this whole topic of quantum fields and 'What the bleep do we know?'-stuff. I am not an expert in this and as a Christian I always believed in human holism (of body-soul-spirit), but not in universal holism as in New Age. I notice that certain quantum physicists are Christian and that others (influenced by Eastern thinking?)tend to make a religion or mysticism of quantum physics. Am I right to say that religion and science are complementary and not opposed to each other, that they speak different languages and that nothing can be really said about God the Trinity, that He only can be adored and worshipped? And that creation seems to be much more enigmatic and wonderful than we ever imagined? But what about f.e. the law of attraction (The secret) and this controversial one: http://masaru-emoto.net/ ???
Does anyone know interesting material on Christianity and quantum physics?
David Van Koevering: "Keys to Taking Your Quantum Leap"
"David Van Koevering is a writer, minister, motivational speaker, quantum physicist and inventor who shares a wealth of knowledge about quantum physics. God is speaking through Quantum Physics more than ever these days! There is so much revelation linking science and the spirit realm proving that God is the Creator and the Great Physicist of all. Along with David's article, we are featuring a series he helped teach on Quantum Physics..."
I pray that your foot mends quickly!
I think I have come to a similar conclusion in that I now think of CP as how a Buddhist might approach contemplative prayer... this also leads me to Christian Meditation, ala John Main, which I now think of as how a Yogi might approch contemplative prayer.
Caneman, Jim Arraj and I discussed the relationship between CP and Christian Meditation with eastern meditative methods in our book, Critical Issues in Chrsitian Contemplative Practice. I sell this on my site, but he has a web version at http://www.innerexplorations.c...chspmys/Critical.htm
Does anyone know interesting material on Christianity and quantum physics?
See The Mystery of Matter, also by Jim Arraj.
Thanks Caneman and Phil. It is clear to me that you people over there in USA are much more acquainted with all this material than we here in Belgium. I think Belgium is far behind, aot in medicine and science in general. Although I don't know what is happening in our world famous university in Leuven at the time... Most of our doctors are against any kind of alternative approach as f.i. homeopathy and acupuncture...
I am grateful to see how quantum physics gets integrated in a Biblical worldview and Christian belief and that not everyone agrees with Capra, B�hm, Chopra, a.o. who like to mingle science with a monistic, holistic Eastern-like world view. I am far from seeing clearly in these matters, but I think it only makes our God still greater and more awesome! But as I said, I have to moderate my reading these days!
I have read the article by David van Koevering. It amazes me not a little bit that my Pentecostal background is showing up. Where is the difference with the so controversial American 'name and clame it'- health-and-wealth gospel influenced by the Esalen humanistic psychology and movement of positive thinking? Although I know that someone like Derek Prince, an intelligent and honest man, has written similar things about the power of the word (logos/rhema)and deliverance from curses without being a 'name it and clame it' supporter. Again (as a Catholic now) I ask myself where grace is and the cross and vicarious suffering and sacrifice mysticism and... in this approach of things.
It is one thing to depart from the concept of creation, it is quite another thing to keep together in a balanced way creation and salvation.
A famous writer here, father-hermit Andr� Louf says on one of my DVD's that with all our best intentions and efforts, 'la grace peut d'avantage'(grace always has the upper hand). 'Without me you can't do anything'...
Or am I seeing things wrong and maybe unconsciously somehow attached to my own suffering? I guess I have to read more on quantum physics and Christianity. Maybe the book by Phil, Caneman and Jim Arraj will be helpful or John Polkinghorne?
Perhaps Freddy. It never ceases to amaze me how unconscious many of us are.
We need grace to grow.
Phil... I have a question for you concerning contemplative prayer!
Most of my personal contact within the Body is with "mainstream evangelicals"... these folks believe that contemplative prayer is satanic, to put it mildly! That doesn't really bother me anymore like it used to, as I don't even try to discuss the topic unless I sense that someone is genuinely and sincerely interested (this is very rare). The main argument against inward prayer from these people is that all we are trying to do is use self-hypnosis to achieve altered states of consciousness... I don't even know what self-hypnosis is, and how it differs from true absorptive times with the Lord in "contemplative prayer" when He completely takes my consious awareness and saturates me with His loving presence like a sponge fills up with water... these moments can be very short (seconds), or longer up to 5 or 10 minutes. During these times I can make myself aware of my body and surroundings if I want, but it is far more satisfying to set aside that field of awareness to give myself to His absorptive loving presence and openly receive it.
So I guess my question is, what do people experience who engage in self-hypnosis or hypnosis? I would like to thoughtfully respond, to these people and need more information.
I notice Thad affirms Roberts' no self? He also affirms us as being uniquely incarnated in the afterlife. So I'm thinking my interpretation of what Keating must've been thinking re: the Beatific Vision applies also to Thad.
Thad's approach to soul stands in contrast to Nancey Murphy's for anyone who'd like to do a compare and contrast. I'm a metaphysical agnostic, so don't really have a dog in this hunt vis a vis dualist versus nondualist conceptions of the soul. (Also, while I'm discussing nonduality, very broadly conceived and as an epistemic stance, these hypotheses re: the soul are, of course, metaphysical speculations and ontological. And I like having those discussions on this thread, also. I wish my title was Nonduality & Nondualism, once again.)
Nancey Murphy: Christianity, Neuroscience & the Soul
For gosh sakes, it's NOT a matter of handing out gold, silver and bronze based on age, 400 years old vs 60, 16 years old vs 13! We can hold onto our sanjuanist stance without being sanjuanistic and look up the 2nd, 3rd and 4th definitions in the dictionary (so as not to be etymological imperialists)! Rahner didn't contradict John of the Cross, he simply clarified a misunderstanding that came from delacruz's poor choice of words. Rahner amplified the theological (pneumatological) underpinning to what was otherwise a mostly phenomenological (experiential) account, because SO many were doing comparative religion through crusty, ecclesiocentric and exclusivistic lenses, which brings to mind a good analogy.
You know when you're at the optometrist? And they keep flipping lenses back and forth? Asking you if this is more in focus? Or is that? Well, hold that analogy.
Now, when you are reading someone else's work and it is all out of focus, as viewed through sanjuanist lenses, and you pick up a pair of Rahnerian reading glasses and it suddenly makes sense and comes into focus, then, you'll have a better understanding of why I was puzzled that anyone would think I was bending over backwards or exerting Herculean effort in my re-interpretation attempts, when all I did was to pick up a pair of reading glasses (familiar as I was with that author's habitual choice of font sizes).
JB, here's Rahner on contemplation in his Dictionary of Theology.
The explanation of "true contemplation" sounds sanjuanist to me. I've never had the sense that Rahner was proposing an alternative understanding to John of the Cross.
I think Merton's understanding of contemplation was also sanjuanist. I quoted this elsewhere, but here, again:
I don't think Rahner or Merton offer alternative "lenses" through which to view infused contemplation. In some of his writings, Rahner seems to elaborate in terms of a theology of grace to make it clear than infused contemplation is a deepening of the same faith and grace we all possess by virtue of baptism, but you can see from his definition above, that he's nowhere near proposing an alternative meaning of the term. Same sort of thing for Merton, whose writings on this topic did change through the years, but not so much as he's proposing an alternative glossary.
I'll grant you your bronze medal, however. . .
That's why one can maintain, as I did, that Rahner didn't contradict John of the Cross. What we are asking, in general, is did Rahner and Merton deepen our understanding of what we mean, in this sanjuanist sense, even, when we say that an experience is 1)infused, 2) mystical or 3) a movement of the Holy Spirit. And what I have maintained, then, is that they did both deepen and broaden our understanding in the sense that they democratized our understanding of where the Holy Spirit might be moving, broadening our conceptions to recognize that mysticism, outside of Christianity, can be graced, supernatural, mystical, infused and so on, all of this over against any narrower conceptions, as I said, that were ecclesiocentric and exclusivistic.
I was not suggesting that the sanjuanist and Rahnerian lenses differed in their affirmation and description of the extraordinary and higher forms of the experience of God found in the saints. I was recognizing, rather, that the Rahnerian lenses had a wider field of vision and thus affirm and describe the experience of the Holy Spirit in all morally good human activity, which can also be called mystical, graced, infused and contemplation.
The sanjuanist account addresses a narrower category of experiences that is restricted to those found in our saints. That account is necessary in our description of the Ranhnerian account but it is not sufficient, because the Rahnerian account covers a wider variety of religious experiences and mysticism, then, in this account, is a more sweeping category. That's why one would employ Rahnerian lenses to make sense of Rohr's interpretation of Tolle, disambiguation of natural and supernatural and perspective on words like mysticism, contemplation and infused. We are distinguishing between the sanjuanist and Rahnerian only to unite them.
Without the Ranherian understanding, there's can be no talk of medaling, one will DQ in interreligious dialogue. I think the whole point, though, is that there isn't any competition for the Holy Spirit. That's why I could only imagine that, if Rohr was speaking from a strictly sanjuanist perspective (which he definitely was not), a typographical error was more likely than any suggestion that he was otherwise somehow confused but that, more likely, as I maintained (and not to rescue him with some tortured hypotheticals ), he was merely using the more broadly conceived categories of Merton and Rahner.
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