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Center for Action and Contemplation

Listening as Divine Likeness

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Image and Likeness: Summary

Listening as Divine Likeness
Thursday, December 27, 2018

Tilden Edwards is a dear friend, who is also an Episcopal priest and co-founder and Senior Fellow of The Shalem Institute. I’d like to close this year’s theme, Image and Likeness, with portions of an article he wrote for CAC’s journal Oneing:

Some of the early Church Fathers well summarized the nature and purpose of our lives when they said that we are born in the image of God and meant to grow into the full likeness of God. I interpret that to mean that our core nature is a unique shaping of divine Spirit energy, a unique shaping of divine love, freedom, and creativity. . . .

Over time each of us weaves a unique story of responsiveness to the Holy Spirit invitations and divisive spirit temptations of our lives. Each response draws us closer to or further away from consciousness and expression of our true nature in God, the nature of mutually indwelling intimacy. . . . Our responses are personal but not private: they are influenced by and influence the larger human story.

[Here is] a simple schema for noticing from where we are listening and responding at a given time. . . .

Listening from the Little Ego Self

This is the conditioned, coping personality dimension of our nature, our “little” self. It is a gift of God that allows us to enjoy and function in the world. However, when we identify with this dimension of self as our ultimate identity, then we can become dominated by its often fearful, over-securing, control-seeking drives and attachments. . . .

Listening from the Thinking Mind

The mind draws the words we hear and speak through the filter of its learned concepts, categories, images, and values. Our rational and imaginative mind is a great gift of God, including its capacity to recognize and resist our ego’s way of skewing reality. However, if the mind is the ultimate place from which we listen and respond, if we believe its insights bring us fully into the truth, then we have overstepped its capacity. We are in danger of confusing its views with ultimate reality itself. Our concepts then become idols that shrink the great mystery of divine reality to what those concepts can contain, rather than being valuable symbols that point to deep reality beyond the capacity of words and images to fully grasp.

Listening from the Contemplative Heart

When we most deeply listen and respond from a third place in us, our spiritual heart, then we more easily avoid the pitfalls of rational idolatry and ego drives, while at the same time respecting the gifted place of rational-imaginative thought and ego functioning in our lives. Our gifted contemplative heart includes our capacity not only to will and intimately feel, but also to “know” deep reality more holistically, intuitively, and directly than our categorizing, thinking minds. In our heart we are immediately present to what is, just as it is, in the receptive space before our thinking mind begins labeling, interpreting, and judging things, and before our ego fears and grasping become operational.

Tilden Edwards, “Aging from the Contemplative Heart,” “Ripening,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 47-49.

Image credit: Venus (detail), 2008
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. —Richard Rohr
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