There have been several trends in the church that began in the last half of the 20th century that seem consistent with an overarching dynamic of democratization (not regarding church polity but more generally conceived) and inclusivism. There has been a clericalization of the laity and a laicization of the clergy. Our approach to other traditions has been more inclusivistic and less exclusivistic. And thanks to Rahner and Merton, even contemplation has been democratized. What brings all of these trends together is a much broader understanding of how the Holy Spirit might be operating in our world at large as opposed to being distributed through pipelines from Rome. And I have sufficiently nuanced, elsewhere, how a properly inclusivistic perspective need not be at all indifferentist or syncretistic. However otherwise meaningful the sanjuanist distinctions once were and even remain, it seems to me that the words contemplation and contemplative have been coopted by a much more general audience, including no too few spiritual writers, and that it is much more broadly conceived than it is otherwise more narrowly defined in the classical sanjuanist usage. And this is due, in the largest measure, to Rahner and Merton. Why shouldn't "infused" be far behind? In fact, where infused is concerned, it is a bad word from the get go, etymologically, if it truly only represents a matter of degree? Especially since so many people, otherwise, seem to equate it with the very presence or absence of the Holy Spirit, implying that Eastern practitioners could not know such an experience, whether of kind or degree. And that is not just a sematical issue or one of preferred definitions, but a substantive theological error. Increasigly, the formative spirituality theopolicy wonks are going to need to come up with a vocabuluary that comports with the new trends and try to find different labels for those experiences that will help them discern how active or passive this or that directee should be in prayer.
I think it is important to note that Fr. Rohr employs the word contemplation as it is more broadly conceived such as by Rahner and Merton and as understood by modern general audiences (and not per the narrow sanjuanist usage). He emphasizes a contemplative stance, which he basically equates as a realization of our True Self, and notes that most of us spend time in our False Self and True Self each day but need daily reminders to keep our True Self awareness in play. Because there are so many personality and temperament types, Fr. Rohr does not really emphasize one practice over another, but affirms the use of a 20 minute sit, the rosary, the Eucharist or other devotions, encouraging people to employ that prayer form best suited to them. He employs nonduality as an epistemic stance which goes beyond the calculative mind, the dualistic mind that is logical, empirical and practical and geared toward meeting functional needs and gaining extrinsic rewards, to experience ALSO that consciousness which is nonpropositional, more geared toward relationships and their intrinsic value. Basically, this dualistic vs nondualistic consciousness is characteristic, then, of our False Self and True Self. Dualistic consciousness of our False Self is not bad. The False self is not bad either. They are just not our True Self. So, for a robust personal relationship with God, beyond a merely functional relationship, the false self and dualistic thinking might be thought of as necessary but not sufficient. That's all. As far as your prayer practice, that's up to you and your director, if you have one.
JB, that's all true. There is a more general understanding of "contemplation" and "contemplative practice" in the culture, but I've not run across that with regard to "infused contemplation," which distinction is still very much understood in the sanjuanist sense (which is about the only place it's used). And there is also a strong tendency to recognize the working of the Spirit in a wide variety of religious and non-religious contexts. I don't deny that, for, as you know, I am also a strong inclusivist and have often made the case on this board for the reality of "implicit faith."
That would be the error of exclusivism -- the view that Christ and the Spirit operate in Christianity (and often only certain Church bodies, at that), and not much outside. No one here has pushed for that, to my knowledge, nor denied the working of the Spirit in Eastern religions. Maybe you're referring to some of those arch-conservative Catholic sites you mentioned earlier?
I do maintain that in Christianity and in Eastern religions, not all apophatic, unitive experiences are of the Spirit, and that what we've been calling "metaphysical mysticism" (mysticism of consciousness or being) shows little signs of being so. The example cited by Derek above from one of Rohr's teachings is a case in point, as is Zen, vipassana, many forms of yogic meditation, etc. It doesn't bother me that people are calling all this "contemplation" in the larger sense of the term, but it does bother me if they want to say this is all the same thing and no different, structurally or intentionally, than the more theotic, relational types of contemplation that have characterized Christian mysticism. It also annoys me that the hard lessons learned by the Church during the Quietist backlash of the 17th C. seem to have been forgotten, or else are passed off now as no big deal . . . an over-reaction of the hierarchy who feared losing control. (eg, http://tinyurl.com/6nbjdz ) Merton wasn't concerned about quietism, but it wasn't an issue in his time.
BTW, where'd you get "The Third Eye?" Several of us have noted that we can't seem to find copies for sale anywhere.
From Johnboy: He [Rohr] employs nonduality as an epistemic stance which goes beyond the calculative mind, the dualistic mind that is logical, empirical and practical and geared toward meeting functional needs and gaining extrinsic rewards, to experience ALSO that consciousness which is nonpropositional, more geared toward relationships and their intrinsic value.
Johnboy, would he say, then, that one cannot be operating out of True Self if one is using one's reason to make essential distinctions? My sense of what "False Self" means is mostly that it is a calculating commitment to perpetuate a persona of some kind. This usually starts early in life, strongly influences self-image development, and has roots deep in the unconscious. That's how I hear Keating, Pennington and others talking about it as well, including authors who use the term "Ego" to refer to this disorder (I prefer "system of consciousness"). But it sounds like Rohr means much more than this -- almost like any kind of thinking or using logic is an exercise of the False Self. Tolle comes across that way as well, sometime, and I'd submit for your consideration that Rohr is much more influenced in his writings about all this by Tolle than anyone else.
To my understanding, the True Self is much more akin to Lonergan's meaning of "authenticity" than to Tolle's notion of non-reflective consciousness. The True Self is who we are when we are faithful to the exigencies of consciousness: being attentive, intelligent, rational, and responsible. Tolle emphasizes attentiveness almost to the detriment of the other operations; True Self seems, to him, to mean the person we know ourselves to be when we are "being attentive." Indeed, he has called this the "mind of God" -- "Awareness."
Do you think Rohr would say that True Self can be known whilst one is exercising Lonergan's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels of consciousness (being intelligent, rational, and responsible)? I'm hoping that is the case, but as I just can't find his book anywhere, and what I've read on the net and heard on podcasts doesn't clarify.
I think I've found out what happened to The Third Eye book, which appeared on the Internet for a while and then disappeared again. I've been reading Fr. Rohr's 2009 book The Naked Now, and the "third eye" terminology appears frequently in it. So perhaps the material that was to have been a book titled The Third Eye morphed into The Naked Now.
In the three-eyes metaphor, the first eye is our senses, the second eye is our capacity for rational thought, and the third eye is our ability to "taste" the wholeness of something. This occurs when "our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and nonresistant" (p. 28).
"As you will see, contemplation, my word for this larger seeing, keeps the whole field open; it remains vulnerable before the moment, the event, or the person -- before it divides and tries to conquer or control it. Contemplatives refuse to create false dichotomies, dividing the field for the sake of the quick comfort of their ego. They do not rush to polarity thinking to take away their mental anxiety" (p. 34).
He does use the word "nondual" a lot in the book, but he seems to mean by it something like "not being seduced by propositional thought." At least that's what I think he means.
I don't know if Rohr means by the above to imply that polarity thinking is always determined by a defense against mental anxiety. The suggestion seems to be that judgment, especially seeing any opposites or dichotomies, is intrinsically bad or coming from the false self.That's just silly; one can make judgments non-defensively, out of healthy discernment. His stuff seems too close to the Eastern spiritual roots that everything is an illusion, there is no evil, etc.
The Naked Now...The Power of Now...a twin?
I think that the idea of the three eyes is taken from Ken Wilber. Already in the early 80s he interpreted mediaeval idea of the three "eyes" according to his own philosophy. The third eye of mediaeval mysticism was the eye of contemplation, that is a supernatural, given mode of knowledge, not a natural eye that we all posess. Wilber thinks that the third eye, that surpasses the eye of discursive reason, is intuitive intellect, non-discursive or even non-dual knowledge. For Wilber it's a natural faculty. He says that the truths of mysticism can be verified only by people who use their third eye, not by scientist who use the eye of reason to explain the mysticism as illusory. I suppose Rohr continues this idea in his book (I havent' read).
But the eye of intellect is not a discursive faculty, but the intellect as it was understood in the Middle Ages. The intellect fully actualized perceives objects in a non-dual way - they quoted Aristotle for that: "the intellect and its object is the same in the act of knowledge". So Eastern mysticism is using the second eye, as I understand it, just that they try to reject the conceptual activity of the same intellect and get immediately to the non-conceptual or rather trans-conceptual activity of the intellect. As Phil points out, for the Western mystics it's not wrong to use concepts, to "divide" the unity of Being into essences. Of course, the higher activity is to go to the unity underlying essences. Yet for Eastern mystics "divisions" are bad, because they stand in the way of non-dual realization. (Btw, Western philosophers always saw discursive activity as a ladder to the non-discursive intuition - why the Eastern ones try to kick us of the ladder? Perhaps, this way is quicker and non-duality more powerful, because we cannot use concepts after enlightenment?)
Therefore, I think that Rohr is very much influenced by Buddhist epistemology. There was a discussion on "natural" contemplation on the same topic. I must say I think there's a misunderstanding. "Theoria physike" is "natural contemplation" only because its object is God present in Nature, not because it relies solely on natural faculties. I think enlightenment can be a "natural contemplation" through grace of faith, but don't think it's the same. Theoria physike involved visions of angels, for example.
Shasha: Fr. Rohr devotes chapter 17 to defining what nondual thinking is not. So, for example, he says it's not "relativism," "esoteric Eastern philosophy," or "avoidance of appropriate judgments" (pp. 129-130).
(BTW, "nondual thinking," "contemplation," and "non-polarity thinking," as you may have realized, are all synonyms in Fr. Rohr's vocabulary.)
He may have started thinking about the present moment after reading The Power of Now, but he seems to be coming from a different place. He points to Luke 17:23, where Jesus says: "There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, there he is,' or 'Look, here he is.' Do not go off, do not run in pursuit." This, he says, is Jesus' way of stopping people from limiting God's action and presence to a particular location. Then Fr. Rohr comments: "In relativizing both time and space, Jesus is doing something similar to what Eckhart Tolle is doing for many today with his 'power of now'" (p. 76).
Mt: Thank you for this. I'm not familiar with Ken Wilber's use of third-eye terminology, but your summary of it does sound remarkably like what Fr. Rohr is saying.
Re. Wilber and Rohr on "third eye," see Daniel Helminiak's critique of Wilber.
- - see http://www.lulu.com/product/pa...l-directees/13568681
I see that we've already discussed Rohr's work at length, but I will share that it seems to me that he has a tendency to get in on any new trendy growth movement and to write his own book or do his own workshops on the topic: e.g., Twelve Steps, Enneagram, male spirituality movement, and now the Tolle thing.
Fwiw, I'm more convinced than ever that what Tolle and Wilber are talking about as nondual consciousness is simply our own human non-reflecting consciousness.
- see https://shalomplace.org/eve/for...72410135/m/241106781
Phil, I was rereading your text about Awareness State/Christian Enlightenment. You said there that the "Observer" that is looking through the eyes of human beings, animals and even plants, that you experienced in the state of enlightenment, is Jesus Christ - or at least it seemed to you that way. You also wrote that enlightenment is a natural experience of God. I wonder if you changed your mind in time? Non-reflecting consciousness in Helminiak's view is something utterly human and he avoids talking about God, when describing this. Do you think that there are two experiences - one of non-reflecting consciousness, and the other - of God through non-reflecting consciousness (still natural order)?
I suppose we could look at non-reflecting consciousness as necessarily open to God-as-Existence, because the Self is in union with the Ground of Being. But, perhaps, there is a difference, after all. I wonder whether faith changes our perception in that matter. I always felt that the Light I experienced in cosmic, non-reflective states, had a certain "sacred", divine quality to it, so I always thought it was of God, even though it was different than loving, infused contemplation. I never thought it was just my own consciousness. But I have a friend who practiced Zen for over ten years, a devoted Catholic, who told me that for him enlightenment is simple, natural, ordinary and has nothing to do with God whatsoever. I'm not sure if we experience exactly the same. Maybe we interpret differently, but maybe there can be different non-dual experiences?
Anyway, I'm just curious what you think now? Do you still agree with James Arraj that non-dual and relational types of mysticism both are experiences of God, just the first is of the impersonal aspect of God?
From the thread, "God Dimension of Experience," you wrote:
... But to step back from this activity in one's awareness and just-look, or just-be (human nonreflecting consciousness), one cannot help but be struck by the fact that before we become focused on the "what-ness" of things, there is awareness of their "that-ness" or "is-ness." "That" or "is" forms something of a backdrop or foundation for all of creation, and, as such, is undefinable, for it is not anything in particular and seems to be omnipresent. In understand this to be God-as-Creator, the one we call Father in Christianity...A lot of mystics have called this the "Ground of being," or the Intuition of Being. It's a type of mystical experience probably more akin to enlightenment than to an inter-subjective love mysticism. ...
And this from the Reflecting and Non-reflecting consciousness thread (which is where I should probably post this):
So, I see why Mt would ask for clarification about this in his last post. Is Beingness, which I assume is non-reflective awareness, or "is-ness", the Father of Jesus Who can be known through enlightenment or is He hidden behind enlightenment and not known except by grace?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
Obviously, I need an editor. (Any volunteers?)
Non-reflecting awareness is an attribute of our own, human spiritual consciousness -- an ability to just-look, observe, be . .. . To my understanding, this what others also call the witnessing state, or 3rd eye consciousness. It is perception prior to any reflection on the objects of perception, and so it is a very delicate state, but one that we can learn to "tune into," as it were. It can also be deepened and purified, as with certain forms of meditation, or just learning to shift one's attention. In such a state, other things are experienced as immediately present rather than as objects of reflection; there's a sweet intimacy and sense of being at-one with creation. This resonates with what I understand enlightenment or nondual consciousness to be, going by the descriptions of other writers.
God is present in all manner of experience, though in different ways. In enlightenment, God's presence is hidden and undifferentiated from the various existents that come into the field of awareness. There is no God separate from these creatures, at least not in unreflecting awareness. One can sense something of a void out of which all things arise, but it is not until we engage our reflecting consciousness and begin to inquire of the nature of this void that we can begin to name it as something that is non-creaturely. To me, that's about as far as we can go using our human consciousness, and that's why I think Buddhism and zen in particular are such authentic witnesses of this kind of natural mystical experience.
Of course, for the Christian, we never leave our faith behind as we pursue any kind of experience (or if we do, that is a huge mistake). Faith configures even what we perceive in non-reflecting consciousness, not by imposing an interpretation on the experience, but in the very manner in which we open ourselves to it. Any resonance of the divine presence is known to be not simply an impersonal void, but the very God who loves us and calls us by name. Even when Christians come upon Zen's void, then, we know this to be one and the same God we profess in our creeds, though present to us in a different way than we experience in lectio divina, the Sacraments, or even contemplation. Jim Arraj and I puzzled many times over this question -- whether a Christian doing zen could experience what non-Christian zen practitioners describe, and we never came to a conclusive answer, but you can see from the above where my own sentiments lie. Same goes for Kundalini and other Easternish experiences; even though many aspects of these experiences are the same for Christians and non-Christians, they unfold in the context of faith and so are configured, ordered and understood in the context of faith.
Hope that all makes sense.
Happy new year to you all.
Yes, that makes sense to me! When we publish the Collected Works by Phil St.R. there will be a considerable "Introduction" or a "Preface" to sort all things out for readers...
That's my understanding at this time of my life, too. I started to think that maybe it's not that easy to call all experiences of "oneness" or "non-duality" enlightenment and suppose it's all the same. For example, Namkhai Norbu, a teacher of dzogchen tradition, is clear and adamant about dzogchen realization being different (in fact, much higher!) than Zen satori. Buddhist say there are several, even more than ten levels of nirvana. Wilber says that experience of non-duality is so simple and ordinary that you can actually yawn at that. But Muktananda describes the highest realization in different terms - the whole world is a mass of shining, blueish light, far from being ordinary! Zen people say they still have thoughts after enlightenment and Ramana Maharshi said that if you still have spontaneous thoughts it means that you're in a conditioned samadhi, not in the absolute. And so on, and so on... I suppose all those "natural" experiences have very much in common and are similar, but they're also different in different persons, and "faith" is a powerful factor here. I don't think that all Christian mystics have the same experience of God, either.
So perhaps for some people enlightenment-type experiences are more directed to the Mystery behind them than to others. I hear you Shasha saying that you avoid those states of mind, and you have sound reason for that, given your personal history. Your history, Phil, was quite different, so you might experience those states much differently. I was an atheist 10 years ago and I was given faith in personal God through those states of mind, because I was totally closed to traditional Church's spirituality. So I tend to view them differently.
But, anyway, it's not a "material" we can compare. Dalai Lama once said that it's impossible to be certain about another person's mental state. You can infer from their conduct and behavior. Yes, but thus you can only have a conclusion that this person is "on the right path", so to speak, but not whether they have natural, supernatural or neither mystical experience.
Happy New Year to all of you! (what kind of Christian feast is that, anyway it seems rather pagan, but we have masses in churches everywhere at midnight )
amen. amen, and amen Phil.. very well put.. thank you for taking the time to share so eloquently..
Yes. I'm beginning to suspect that "enlightenment" might simply be a developmental stage (and one that has nothing to do with religion). It's also possible that its characteristics might vary from person to person, in the same way as we each develop unique ways of walking, talking, thinking, etc. Rather than ten possible forms of "enlightenment," there may be as many as six billion -- one for each individual.
For the record, there are two things going on in me.
I cannot turn off the background type of non-reflective consciousness that I 'see' all the time. I cannot avoid that and don't want/need to. It is just there, a profound sense that I am connected to all people and creation. A kind of seeing that we are all made of the same 'stuff' of the universe. I do believe that this kind of seeing is the result of kundalini activation, but it has no meaning for me. In fact, its lack of apparent meaning makes it empty, in a sense. It's like seeing this SAMENESS everywhere I go, and so I can say "Ah, God, the Creator..." But why, why did You do this God, what is the meaning of creation? Consciousness does not answer back.
Then there's what I call samadhi, and all the states of consciousness I associate with all my meditation practices and guru initiations, which are confounded by diety worship. That stuff is deadly to me. I am called to avoid/resist that state because to me it is a 'place' of unholy detachment, of profound passivity and even a kind of amorality. I believe samadhi is the domain of satan, who is still the 'ruler of this world,' who was once the most beautiful angel.
Good distinctions between non-reflecting consciousness and samadhi states, Shasha. I think these are sometimes confounded, as you noted.
I will say, however, that my experience of non-reflecting consciousness is not so static or boring as what you seem to be describing. Granted, it is non-relational, and, in fact, our very human consciousness, but for me there's a sense of newness about it in every moment -- if I am content to "just-be." Inquiries from the mind bring no response, as you noted, but there truly is something wonder-full about the fact of existence itself. I mean, consider the alternative!
It seems that some forms of meditation -- especially in the Buddhist tradition -- are primarily about deepening and purifying non-reflecting consciousness. Others, as you noted, lead to altered states of some kind. What I'm wondering is if you think those are somehow intrinsically dangerous or polluted with evil influences? If so, that would be implicating much of Hindu and New Age mysticism as that's what it seems they aim for.
I don't experience a sense of "newness in every moment," no I'm not so lucky most of the time. My nervous system is so sensitive that I'm often agitated by sounds, chaos (inner and outer), stimulation, etc. to coninuously enjoy non-reflecting consciousness in the way you describe. What I do enjoy about the extent of non-reflecting consciousness I know is the fact that I feel fairly free and unafraid, at some level (even as there fears and brokenness at another level). There is a boldness one feels in unity consciousness but this can be warped into narcissism, arrogance, sense of omnipotence, etc.
As for your last question: do I think samadhi and other related, altered states are "somehow intrinsically dangerous or polluted with evil influences?" I don't really know, but all my personal experience suggests the answer is quite probably yes, especially if you're calling on a god/goddess to underwrite your experiences. Danger and evil often are disguised by the sublime, glorious, and beautiful.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
I've thought the same thing, Derek. There's just too much variance across descriptions to settle for distinct categories of "enlightenment." And Mt's suggestion that not all Christian mystics have the same experience of God affirm profound individuality and uniqueness in us.
Thanks for your responses to my questions, Shasha. I closely relate to what you've written above, and this helps to understand how it can be that some supposedly enlightened teachers can fall into deeply sinful situations. Some of our own Christian mystical teachers -- e.g., the quietists -- went so far as to suggest that there could be no possibility of sin if one in a state of detachment, dead to one's will, and attentive to the present moment. I think something similar is possible if one places too much emphasis on cultivating non-reflecting consciousness at the expense of an authenticity that also integrates reflectivity. It's difficult to see how conscience can properly function without the latter.
That's very interesting what you write, Shasha. In my case there are periods of time, when the "background" seems natural and normal, goes unnoticed, even boring. But it's probably because my experience of non-reflecting consciousness isn't stable or intense enough. In periods of heightened energy activity (probably via grace) the same background light starts to reveal God, although in a non-personal way, which is OK, because I have profound faith in Him, which adds value to that. But there are also states of silence which lacks this special "God" luminosity in it, and I don't like it. It reminds me of the climate of Roberts' book on no-self. But I don't find it dangerous or evil. However, I remember that when I plunged into this intense silence 3 years ago, I felt anxiety at times, and a need to restore relationship with God, as if I was "losing it". I don't fully understand all this, but I suppose it's all very individual. Probably you touched some sort of "evil samadhi", the one to avoid. Or the Satan was using certain states of consciousness to get to you, and now they're polluted?
I didn't know that about the quietists. Very interesting.
And yes to your last sentence about developing a conscience. It's a lot harder to be a good person than it is to focus on enlightenment, but as Christians we're called to purity of heart above all else.
And didn't you touch some sort of 'evil samadhi' too when you became anxious and disconnected from God? Didn't the anxiety alert you to something dangerous about your path?
Yes, I do think it's highly likely that Satan did get a hook in me through using some of the state of consciousnesses that may now be polluted; that's a good way to understand maybe why I am adamant in resisting them when they creep in.
Anyway, I know we're way off of Richard Rohr's new book...sorry for getting off track.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
That puzzled me for the longest time, too. But the heresy of the quietists was exactly as Phil states: the belief that they didn't need to follow the precepts of the Church any more. Being quiet (the suggested meaning of "quietist") is not a sin, and they were not declared heretical because they were too quiet!
No problem about getting "off-track," Shasha. We do it all the time. Besides, there's eventually some kind of relevance to these side-bar discussions.
Here's a rather lengthy quote from the old Catholic Encyclopedia on Quietism. You'll see why it's a problem. Note, especially, the first principle condemned by Pope Innocent -- the one on annihilating inward powers. There's still some of that kind of teaching going around today.
Fwiw, Fenelon was one of the least offensive of the Quietists, and he did revise those aspects of his teachings that were objectionable.
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