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Exploring the Mystics with James Finley: Weekly Summary

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Summary: Sunday, October 8-Friday, October 13, 2017

This week CAC faculty member and guest writer James Finley introduced us to the Christian mystics Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. James is attuned to the pedagogy of the mystics and invites us to a different kind of reading. As he puts it, “The mystics are not writing for our logical minds but to awaken our hearts to what matters most. This requires us to slow down enough to catch up with ourselves. These meditations call us to settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be and how can we be more faithful to it.”

“I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms; just as in Heaven ‘there are many mansions.’” —Teresa of Ávila (Sunday)

Your God-given godly nature is the infinite reality of you. You are as precious as God is precious. You have a value that cannot be calculated. (Monday)

What if we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? (Tuesday)

Infinite Love is the architect of our hearts, and we are made in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with Infinite Love will do. Love is our origin and our destiny. (Wednesday)

The concrete immediacy of life is the infinite love of God manifesting itself in the present moment. (Thursday)

The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things. (Friday)

 

Practice: Breathing Love in All Things

I have the intuition that in his Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross was trying to move us poetically into a spacious state or a way of being in the world which really is Christ consciousness, the way Christ lived his life.

Let’s say you are sitting in prayer and using your breath as the prayer. As you inhale you listen to God saying I love you. When you breathe out you exhale I love you: you give yourself to the love that gives itself to you. In the I love you received and the I love you response, the reciprocity of love and of the communion deepens.

Now while you are sitting there saying this prayer, let’s say there is bodily pain. Now when you inhale, you inhale Infinite Love, loving you pain and all, through and through and through and through and through. And when you exhale yourself into God, you give yourself, pain and all, into the Love that loves you, pain and all.

Let’s say you are sitting there and you are confused; something has happened and you are bewildered. You sit there and as you breathe in God, you breathe in God loving you, confusion and all, through and through and through and through and through. And when you exhale yourself in the I love you, you give yourself, confusion and all, to the Love that loves you, confusion and all.

And let’s say you are sad, and you breathe in God loving you through and through and through, sadness and all; and you exhale yourself in your sadness. Then your sadness is an act of love. And so, in every reciprocity of love, the ultimate irrelevance of conditioned states yields and gives way to Love that unexplainably sustains you in the conditions in which you exist.

This is the message of John’s Spiritual Canticle. It is not saying that you are not in pain, that you are not sad or confused; nor is it saying that you don’t need to deal with these things.

Let’s turn it around. You are sitting in prayer and bubbling over with joy because you just won the lottery. And God is loving you through and through, joy and all; and you breathe yourself back to Love, joy and all. It’s the infinite irrelevance of attainment and nonattainment, the infinite irrelevance of laughter and tears with respect to the oceanic Love that loves you through and through and through and through in your tears, in your laughter, in all things.

So, stabilized in love, we are grounded in the courage that empowers us to touch the hurting places. Prior to being grounded in love, we think we are nothing but the self that things happen to. We are afraid to go near the hurting place because we absolutize the relative. But if we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing, even as it sustains us in all things, it grounds us to face all things with courage and tenderness.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

Reference:
Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

For Further Study:
James Finley, Richard Rohr, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download
James Finley, The Contemplative Heart (Sorin Books: 1999) 

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Only Love Is Real

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Only Love Is Real
Friday, October 13, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Take a few moments in the midst of your busy day to slow down, to enter into the quiet, and to read these words from your heart center, without judgment or needing to fully understand with your logical brain.

Just as with Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle, by the very first paragraph of John of the Cross’ Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel you get the sense that the words are coming from some very deep place from inside of him—or really through him—that intimately accesses a deep place in us:

A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. [1]

One of the operative principles of love is that love does not rest as long as there is an inequality in love. In seeing the beloved down, the lover is moved to lift the beloved up. John says the infinite love of God will not rest until you are equal to God in love. Even though you would be absolutely nothing without God, God will not rest until you are as much God as God is God. God will not settle for a trace of inequality. In the “dark night of the soul,” we are weaned away from the ego’s finite ideas and feelings about God. We come to know that no idea about God is God. We are also weaned from our ideas about our self as being a finite, separate self apart from God.

Not everyone experiences this kind of union in this life. But in some lives God does not wait until death to begin the consummation through a dark night of the soul. In this nondual state, although I am not God, I am not other than God either. Although I am not you, I am not other than you either. Although I am not the earth, I am not other than the earth either. All things are unexplainably, invincibly one in endless diversity forever.

The awakening of this state on this earth does not mean you are holier than others. Rather, you awaken to how unexplainably holy everybody is. The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things.

Then, in some strange way, when you die, nothing will happen, because you’ve already died to the illusion that anything less than love is real; and you are aware that Infinite Love is loving you endlessly and giving itself away as your life.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications: 1991), 114-115.

Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, discs 1 and 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Experiencing God’s Love

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Experiencing God’s Love
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Before you read, take a few deep, slow breaths. Feel yourself in your body, in this place. Attune to your heart’s wisdom and let your mind rest in the quiet.

John believed that substantial union is our God-given godly nature. It’s the inherent sacredness of life itself. This dance of infinite love is rhythmically playing itself out in the rhythms of our life standing up and sitting down, waking up and falling asleep. The concrete immediacy of life is the infinite love of God manifesting itself in the present moment.

All of life, distilled to its simplest essence, has to do with the intimate, utterly personal way that each of us serendipitously stumbles upon this great truth. When everything is said and done, only love is real; only love endures. Outside of love, there is nothing, nothing at all. We subsist in varying degrees of awareness from which flow gratitude and peace.

John of the Cross calls this growing awareness of affective union “the way of beginners.” At this stage, our belief is a finite idea about God which reveals something of the nature of the Infinite. Within the Scriptures, there are eloquent, beautiful, finite ideas of the Infinite. And we experience finite feelings of the Infinite. These consolations and solace are the felt sense of God’s abiding presence in our life. This is the ego illumined by faith.

This is just the beginning of our journey. We rightly learn at this stage how to live by this love that we are experiencing. What’s the most loving thing I can do right now for myself, for my body, for my mind, for the gift of my life? What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person, for this community of people, for this animal, for the earth?

The wonderful thing about being a beginner is that we can begin with a confidence that eventually we will arrive at union. When death comes, an extraordinary thing happens: through all eternity, we will no longer be knowing God through finite ideas of the Infinite. Rather, you will know God through God’s own knowledge of God which is Christ; and for all eternity, you will love God with God’s own love which is the Holy Spirit. Through all eternity, you and God will disappear as other than each other.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

Reference:
Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Love Is Our Origin and Destiny

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Love Is Our Origin and Destiny
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Today James Finley will introduce us to another great mystic, John of the Cross. As with all of the mystics, a different kind of reading and perception is required. Remember that mysticism is simply experiential knowing, rather than intellectual knowing. Read today’s reflection with your heart wide open.

John of the Cross (1542-1591) met Teresa of Ávila—then fifty-two years old—when he was a newly ordained Carmelite priest at twenty-five. John was planning to join the Carthusians and become a hermit, but Teresa asked him to join her instead in reforming the Carmelites. Teresa and John shared a rich friendship and correspondence.

When I first read John at age eighteen, there was a certain resonance in realizing he was talking about something that I didn’t understand but I knew mattered very, very much. I’m seventy-four years old now, and I’m still reading him.

Like Teresa, John believed that Infinite Love is the architect of our hearts, and we are made in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with Infinite Love will do. Love is our origin and our destiny. Creative love sustains us breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat. John writes:

God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it may be that of the greatest sinner in the world. This union between God and creatures always exists. By it He conserves their being so that if the union should end they would immediately be annihilated and cease to exist. Consequently, in discussing union with God, we are not discussing the substantial union that is always existing but the soul’s union with and transformation in God. This union is not always existing, but we find it only where there is likeness of love. We will call it “the union of likeness”; and the former, “the essential or substantial union.” The union of likeness is supernatural [meaning graced or given]; the other, natural. The supernatural union exists when God’s will and the soul’s are in conformity, so that nothing in the one is repugnant to the other. When the soul rids itself completely of what is repugnant and unconformed to the divine will, it rests transformed in God through love. [1]

God’s will for you is Godself. When you, in the freedom of your will, want nothing but what God wills—that is, you live by and for the ever-deepening consummation of this union in love—then these two wills are united in love.

Our spiritual task is to discern the ways in which our heart is at variance with God’s heart. We see how our own subjective perceptions and intentions are compromised or violate our ultimate destiny in love. By this graced recognition, we are released and liberated.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] John of the Cross, John of the Cross: Selected Writings, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh (Paulist Press: 1987), 89.

Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, discs 1 and 3 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Being with Ourselves

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Being with Ourselves
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle. Again, he invites you into a different kind of reading. Let your rational mind rest and allow your heart to awaken.

Teresa asks, “Wouldn’t it be a pity not to understand ourselves?” The pity is we tend not to. Teresa is writing about healing the sorrow that arises from being exiled from our soul.

Now let us return to our beautiful and delightful castle [which is our soul] and see how we can enter it. I seem rather to be talking nonsense; for, if this castle is the soul, there can clearly be no question of our entering it [since we are the soul we are going after]. For we ourselves are the castle: and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of “being” in a place. [1]

All of us are here (wherever we may be), right here. But the degree to which each of us is here right now—in terms of a deeply awake, grateful awareness of the gift and miracle of being here—varies greatly from person to person. Another way of saying it is that everyone who’s married is married. Some people are more married than others.

The issue is our tendency to get stuck focusing on what my father or mother, wife or ex-wife, children or friends, pastor or boss thinks of me. What if instead we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? If I’m so caught up in perceptions of myself—projections and wounds—if I’m caught up in this labyrinth of confusion, it eclipses my view of the God-given godly nature of who I absolutely, invincibly am.

This is how Teresa of Ávila starts her book, The Interior Castle. We’re just on page two, and it’s clear this isn’t going to be a light read! But what’s also clear is it’s not theoretical. The pedagogy of the mystics slows us down enough to catch up with ourselves. How can we ponder the intimate immediacy of what matters most? How can we learn to not treat ourselves like someone we don’t want to spend time with? How can we settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be? And how can we be more faithful to it?

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (Dover Publications: 2007, ©1946), 17.

Adapted from James Finley, private retreat on Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle, 2016.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Made in God’s Image

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Made in God’s Image
Monday, October 9, 2017

CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring The Interior Castle in which Teresa of Ávila describes our soul as a beautiful castle with many rooms; at the center of the castle God dwells. As James shared yesterday, the mystics can’t be understood rationally, but must be read slowly, prayerfully, and with an open heart.

Teresa begins her book with the revelation that God creates us in God’s own image and likeness:

I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity. In fact, however acute our intellects may be, they will no more be able to attain to a comprehension of this than to an understanding of God; for, as He Himself says, He created us in His image and likeness [Genesis 1:26]. Now if this is so—and it is­—there is no point in our fatiguing ourselves by attempting to comprehend the beauty of this castle; for, though it is His creature, and there is therefore as much difference between it and God as between creature and Creator, the very fact that His Majesty says it is made in His image means that we can hardly form any conception of the soul’s great dignity and beauty. [1]

Teresa then invites us to reflect with her on the far-reaching implications of this revelation. First, to recognize the fact that we’re created in the image and likeness of God is to know that creation is perpetual and absolute.

That is, at this very moment, a God who is Infinite Reality itself is giving reality to us right now. If God would stop creating you into your chair at the count of three, then at the count of three your chair would be empty—because you’re nothing, absolutely nothing, outside and other than God. If at the count of three, God would cease loving the universe into existence, the universe would disappear because the universe is God’s body. The world embodies the Infinite Love that is Reality giving itself away as this universe. This is true of all creation: Brother Sun and Sister Moon, stones and trees and stars and birds and so on.

Teresa says our soul refers to our God-given godly nature. Your God-given godly nature is the infinite reality of you. You’re worth all that God is worth. You are as precious as God is precious. You have a value that cannot be calculated. Teresa says this is why we don’t understand ourselves. To understand yourself you’d have to understand God, who right at this moment is loving you into existence as the very reality of yourself and your nothingness without God. This is crystal clear, isn’t it? No wonder we can’t figure ourselves out!

Although we might not be able to understand ourselves, as humans we do have the unique capacity to be conscious of Infinite Love embodied in us. And in realizing this reality, we’re empowered to assent to it. Love is never imposed; it’s always offered.

As Teresa says, “Let us now then enter this castle.”

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (Dover Publications: 2007, ©1946), 15-16.

Adapted from James Finley, private retreat on Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle, 2016.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Seven Mansions

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Seven Mansions
Sunday, October 8, 2017

James Finley, one of CAC’s core faculty members, will be reflecting on two mystics from 16th century Spain in this week’s Daily Meditations. James is attuned to the pedagogy of the mystics and invites us to a different kind of reading. As he puts it, “The mystics are not writing for our logical minds, but to awaken our hearts to what matters most. This requires us to slow down enough to catch up with ourselves. These meditations call us to settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be and how can we be more faithful to it.”

Jim begins with Teresa of Ávila, author of The Interior Castle, one of the great classical works in the Christian mystical tradition.

Teresa was born in Ávila, Spain in 1515. As a young woman, she entered the cloistered Carmelite convent just outside this medieval walled city. After more than twenty years in the convent, she began to have deep experiences of God’s presence in prayer. A few years before her death in 1582, she was asked to write about what was happening to her.

Let’s look at the first paragraph of The Interior Castle:

While I was beseeching Our Lord today that He would speak through me . . . I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven “there are many mansions” [John 14:2]. [1]

Teresa is saying, in effect, “I’m going to try to share some things with you that are hard to talk about. It’s hard to find words for them. As a matter of fact, at certain levels, it’s beyond words. Therefore, I need something like an overarching metaphor under the auspices of which might be the language with which to speak about these things.”

Teresa was given the metaphor of a beautiful castle inside of us to represent the soul where God dwells. In this castle, there are seven “mansions” or dwelling places, which basically describe different stages along the spiritual journey. Teresa walks her readers all the way through to the seventh mansion, the state of mystical marriage or divine union, where we and God disappear as other than each other.

Teresa says that in the seventh mansion, like watching the rain falling from the sky into the river, you can no longer tell the water that falls from the sky from the water of the river. You and God can no longer tell each other apart from each other. Here even the tribulations of life are realized to be the Beloved flowing endlessly as a kind of intimate gift of being human on this earth. There is nothing missing, because even the experience of the missing of love is the Love. It’s the Love giving itself to you as the intimacy of the yearning for love.

Thomas Merton says there is that in you that no one can destroy or diminish because it belongs completely to God. The whole spiritual life is about grounding ourselves in this invincible preciousness of fragility and becoming someone in whose presence others are grounded in this reality.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (Dover Publications: 2007, ©1946), 15.

Adapted from James Finley, private retreat on Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle, 2016.; and
Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.

Reading the Mystics

Reading the Mystics

I’d like to share with you some insights I’ve had lately that will hopefully help you in reading the classical texts of the mystics. For lack of space, I will offer a few bare threads that need to be fleshed out in further reflection. But I hope these intuitive tracings have evolved enough to help you enter more deeply into the intimate nature of reading mystical texts as a way to pray.

First of all, I think it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize that the subject matter of the text is your own subjectivity. That is, the mystics’ offerings are intended to illumine your experiential self-knowledge. The focus being your experiential understanding of yourself in the midst of a graced transformation in which you are learning from God how to let go of and die to your dreaded and cherished illusions that anything less than infinite union with the infinite love of God has the authority to name who you are.

Secondly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize the subject matter is the trans-subjective communion in which the interiority of your own subjectivity is accessing and is being accessed by the interiority of the mystic’s very subjectivity. This resonance between ourselves and the teacher is qualitatively deeper than a mutual affinity at the psychological level of our personality. The deepening communion moves in the interiority of our subjectivity born in sustained contemplative attentiveness infused with love. It is this deepening trans-subjective communion that enables you, at some point, to begin to intuit in advance what the mystic will say next because the interiority of your mind and heart is falling into such a deep empathic resonance with the interiority of the mystic’s mind and heart. It is this deepening familiarity that forms the profound sense of gratitude we feel for the mystic teacher, whose insights and clarity continue to illumine and sustain us day by day.

Thirdly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize the subject matter is the trans-subjective communion of God’s intra-divine life as Father, Son, and Spirit that is radiating out and giving itself away in and as the mystic’s trans-subjective communion with God. In turn, the mystic’s trans-subjective communion with God radiates out and gives itself away in and through the cadences and rhythms of the mystic’s voice, becoming your deepening realization of your trans-subjective communion with God as being your very reality, your own deepest, God-given identity.

Fourthly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize that this widening circle of trans-subjective communion occurs as we read, pause, reread, pause, pray, and then reread, as if for the first time, the words that convey and embody the unitive mystery that transcends what words can say. All of this ripens into the tender-hearted way we are learning to treat ourselves and each person we meet as we go through our day. Over time this widening circle of trans-subjective communion with infinite love draws our hearts toward its all-encompassing center, where we join the mystics in realizing that our lingering illusions are just that, illusions that do not have the power to name who we are and ever shall be in God who loves us so in the midst of our ongoing illusions whatever they may be.

Image of Jim Finley's signature

James Finley

True Self and False Self: Week 2 Summary

True Self and False Self: Week 2

Summary: Sunday, August 13-Friday, August 18, 2017

This week guest writer and CAC teacher James Finley explored the true self and false self through Thomas Merton’s teaching.

A prayerful, respectful pursuit of Merton’s understanding of the true self can bring us to the brink of the insight into our own ultimate identity as radically one with God in Christ. (Sunday)

For Merton, the spiritual life is a journey in which we discover ourselves in discovering God, and discover God in discovering our true self hidden in God. (Monday)

“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.” —Thomas Merton (Tuesday)

Merton quotes Meister Eckhart as saying, “For God to be is to give being, and for man to be is to receive being.” Our true self is a received self. At each moment, we exist to the extent we receive existence from God who is existence. (Wednesday)

In utter simplicity, we intuitively realize within ourselves that our existence, though truly our own, is as the waves are to the sea, as the light is to the flame. (Thursday)

“This is a kenotic transformation, an emptying of all the contents of the ego-consciousness to become a void in which the light of God or the glory of God, the full radiation of the infinite reality of His Being and Love are manifested.” —Thomas Merton (Friday)

 

Practice: Prayer of the Heart

Read Thomas Merton’s own description of meditation or contemplative prayer:

In the “prayer of the heart” we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God. We do not reason about dogmas of faith, or “the mysteries.” We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God’s truth. Inner certainty depends on purification. The dark night rectifies our deepest intentions. In the silence of this “night of faith” we return to simplicity and sincerity of heart. We learn recollection, which consists in listening for God’s will, in direct and simple attention to reality. Recollection is awareness of the unconditional. Prayer then means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him. It is thus something much more than uttering petitions for good things external to our own deepest concerns.

. . . Consequently: first of all our meditation should begin with the realization of our nothingness and helplessness in the presence of God. This need not be a mournful or discouraging experience. On the contrary, it can be deeply tranquil and joyful since it brings us in direct contact with the source of all joy and all life. But one reason why our meditation never gets started is perhaps that we never make this real, serious return to the center of our own nothingness before God. Hence we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with him.

In other words we meditate merely “in the mind,” in the imagination, or at best in the desires, considering religious truths from a detached objective viewpoint. We do not begin by seeking to “find our heart,” that is to sink into a deep awareness of the ground of our identity before God and in God. “Finding our heart” and recovering this awareness of our inmost identity implies the recognition that our external, everyday self is to a great extent a mask and a fabrication. It is not our true self. And indeed our true self is not easy to find. It is hidden in obscurity and “nothingness,” at the center where we are in direct dependence on God. [1]

As you meditate in silence, allow yourself to become empty and naked before God’s loving gaze. In your nothingness, at the center of your heart, God can mirror back to you your True Self, one with God’s own heart.

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

Reference:
[1] Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer (Image Books: 1996, ©1969), 45, 48-49. Emphasis in original.

For Further Study:
James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self (Ave Maria Press: 1978)

Living in God

True Self and False Self: Week 2

Living in God
Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

In ways known only to God, the one seeking God in silence unexpectedly falls through the barriers of division and duplicity to discover, as Merton writes, that:

. . . here, where contemplation becomes what it is really meant to be, it is no longer something infused by God into a created subject, so much as God living in God and identifying a created life with His [sic] own Life so that there is nothing left of any significance but God living in God. [1]

This “disappearance” is the antithesis of loss of self. Rather it is an expression of the true self’s final consummation as a created capacity for perfect union with God. Thus, this disappearance is actually a manifestation of ourselves as radically one with God. The only self that actually vanishes is our false self, the separate self we thought ourselves to be. Within the context of this contemplative awareness, we actualize Jesus’ words: “He who loses his life shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Merton says the contemplative realizes that the ego-self is:

not final or absolute; it is a provisional self-construction which exists, for practical purposes, only in a sphere of relativity. Its existence has meaning in so far as it does not become fixated or centered upon itself as ultimate, learns to function not as its own center but “from God” and “for others.” [2]

This is why Christ came, that through him and in the Spirit we might find our fulfillment in union with the Father. Merton relates this contemplative transformation of consciousness to the whole of Christian life, saying:

This dynamic of emptying and of transcendence accurately defines the transformation of the Christian consciousness in Christ. It is a kenotic transformation, an emptying of all the contents of the ego-consciousness to become a void in which the light of God or the glory of God, the full radiation of the infinite reality of His Being and Love are manifested. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

References:
[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Paperbook: 1972), 284.
[2] Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite (New Directions: 1968), 24.
[3] Ibid., 75.

Adapted from James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self (Ave Maria Press: 1978), 139-140, 144-145.

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