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Center for Action and Contemplation

Mirroring the Divine

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Contemplative Consciousness

Mirroring the Divine
Thursday, January 11, 2018

In Christianity the inner self is simply a stepping stone to an awareness of God. Man [sic] is the image of God, and his inner self is a kind of mirror in which God not only sees Himself, but reveals Himself to the mirror in which He is reflected. Thus, through the dark, transparent mystery of our own inner being we can, as it were, see God through a glass. All this is of course pure metaphor. It is a way of saying that our being somehow communicates directly with the Being of God, Who is in us. If we enter into ourselves, find our true self, and then pass beyond the inner I, we sail forth into the immense darkness in which we confront the I AM of the Almighty. —Thomas Merton [1]

Your life is not about you; you are about Life. You are an instance of a universal, eternal pattern. The One Life that many call “God” is living itself in you, through you, and as you! You have never been separate from God except in your mind. Can you imagine that?!

This realization is an earthquake in the brain, a hurricane in the heart, a Copernican revolution in the mind, and a monumental shift in consciousness. Yet most of us do not seem interested in it. It is too big to imagine and can only be revealed slowly.

One of my favorite Eastern Fathers, Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), taught “What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One, received not in essence but by participation.” [2] He’s not saying, “I am God.” No one can or wants to live up to that! He is saying that we objectively participate in the One Life of God (panentheism rather than pantheism).

We are much more prepared to understand this in a post-Einstein world—where energy, movement, or life itself is the one constant, and not an isolated substance. We don’t manufacture our core identity by good behavior, sacraments, or reading the Bible. We merely awaken it by letting loving people rub off on us, eating the Eucharist, enjoying an entirely sacramental universe, and fully recognizing God’s image in all creatures, without exception.

[1] Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation (HarperCollins: 2004), 11.
[2] Symeon the New Theologian, Hymn 1, from The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent, from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives, trans. John Anthony McGuckin (Shambhala: 2003), 160.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 45-46, 47-48.

Image credit: Impression Sunrise (detail), Claude Monet, 1872, Musee Marmottan Monet.
When another thought arises [in contemplation]—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river. —Thomas Keating
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