Mysticism & Infinity (Intelligent Christian)
In later works, however, he doubted that the New Realism had succeeded in that difficult mission Sometimes I am not willing to say so. Regarding straightforwardly positive religious symbols, Tillich commented even more negatively: The implication of that apparent failure was that the most success the New Realism could expect in mid-twentieth century Western culture was that of Expressionism: Thus, a No and a Yes come to expression in great depth in this art. But the No, the form-destroying element, seems to me to have the upper hand throughout, even though this is not the intention of the artist, for in him there pulsates a passionate will to a new, unconditional Yes.
If we keep in mind that Tillich intended none of his typology to be absolute, that a particular piece of art usually included several stylistic elements, we realize that typing a piece or an artistic movement is a matter of degrees. We can probably conclude, however, that Tillich eventually came to the judgment that neither the New Realism nor any other artistic movement on the whole succeeded in both expressing the divine depth content and affirming its own forms and surface content.
And in terms of the broadest typology of artistic styles, numinous realism, theonomous religious art, Expressionism, and the New Realism are all expressionistic. At best, enough expressive elements might have been accessible so that the Renaissance viewer could have had a theonomous experience where the ordinary religious content was affirmed while allowing the divine depth content to break through. For Tillich, however, the religious content or Inhalt constituted no part of his experience: So for Tillich in the twentieth-century, the artistic style that functioned in his apprehension of the Madonna with Singing Angels was a negative expressionism.
Given that the two broadest types of artistic style covered thus far entail, respectively, self-sufficient finite content that neglects the infinite versus expressive finite content that reveals infinite depth, exhausting the abstract logical possibilities would leave the following third type of style: I add the parenthetical remark because visual art by its nature involves an indispensable finite medium.
In his works that develop the types of religion, Tillich weighs in with a decisive negative judgment against any form of mysticism that attempts to utterly transcend or bypass the finite for example, Not only is such an attempt practically impossible—even the most rarefied mystical experiences are mediated by a tradition and meditative techniques—but also theologically impossible: Tillich countenanced the destruction of form in Expressionism precisely in that it strove for new forms even as it destroyed the old.
Not even the elements of encountered reality are any longer of interest but only the relation of colors in an unordered-ordered geometrical network. Here the point is reached in which the physical material of every painting is transformed itself into a painting.
The Mystical Formation of Paul Tillich
But this painting does not transcend the material and its inner relations Nevertheless, in spite of this breaking to pieces, this piercing into the underground, this distortion and reduction of dimensions, this exaggeration—expressionism still exhibits artistic form; it discloses the unity of sense impressions, the unity which embraces a manifoldness. In this manifoldness, the whole and the broken, the totality and the parts, are united by the integral act of the artist in creating his new aesthetic form.
Expressionist style then does not try to outstrip all form. I surmise that Tillich had theological qualms about some manifestations of Abstract Expressionism and other schools of non-objective art of the mid-twentieth century, because they did attempt to use their minimalist forms in a kind of purely abstract, instrumental manner that involved their own destruction in order to induce a supposed experience of the naked infinite, rather than creating a new aesthetic form. Dourley concludes that Tillich would have taken his theology in a more expansive direction if he had followed the lead of those two German mystics.
Yet Tillich was aware of that option and deliberately spurned it. Instead he threw in his lot with Schelling: Expressive art participates in the divine fulfillment through the creation. This carried Tillich far beyond his early intellectual interest in the German mystical tradition. As my theological mentor, Ronald L. Developed at greater length elsewhere, I would offer a different interpretation that involves a position consistent with the whole Tillichian corpus, albeit a position never fully developed in an explicit manner: God needs to create the world for complete blessedness, but that fulfillment does not depend on creaturely realization of certain forms over against certain other forms.
In the midst of an existence at best ambiguous, an absolute meaning and fulfillment breaks through the despair, depression, and doubt, and through the forms and the substance of the finite, all of which may be lost in an abyss of meaninglessness. The finite forms here at best represent a hope that sometime concrete meaning may yet re appear. Yes, Tillich never denies the cruciality of the finite for expression of an absolute divine meaning.
However, this absolute fulfillment appears to lose any concrete connection to our life! Yet this is the kind of fulfillment for which a sick soul yearns. The anterior insula may be involved in ineffability , a strong feeling of certainty which cannot be expressed in words, which is a common quality in mystical experiences. According to Picard, this feeling of certainty may be caused by a dysfunction of the anterior insula , a part of the brain which is involved in interoception , self-reflection, and in avoiding uncertainty about the internal representations of the world by "anticipation of resolution of uncertainty or risk".
A philosophical issue in the study of mysticism is the relation of mysticism to morality. Albert Schweitzer presented the classic account of mysticism and morality being incompatible. Richard King also points to disjunction between "mystical experience" and social justice: The privatisation of mysticism — that is, the increasing tendency to locate the mystical in the psychological realm of personal experiences — serves to exclude it from political issues as social justice.
Mysticism thus becomes seen as a personal matter of cultivating inner states of tranquility and equanimity, which, rather than seeking to transform the world, serve to accommodate the individual to the status quo through the alleviation of anxiety and stress. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about mystical traditions. For mystical experience, see mystical experience. Buddhist modernism New religious movement " Spiritual but not religious " Syncretism.
Mystical experience Religious experience Spiritual practice. Ego death Individuation Spiritual development Self-actualization. Humanistic psychology Mindfulness Positive psychology Self-help Self-realization True self and false self. Mystical psychosis Cognitive science of religion Neuroscience of religion Geschwind syndrome Evolutionary psychology of religion.
Moral universalism Universality Universalizability. Mysticism Nondualism Perennialism Theosophy. Christian contemplation and Henosis. Hesychasm , Contemplative prayer , and Apophatic theology. Religious ecstasy , Altered state of consciousness , Cognitive science of religion , Neurotheology , and Attribution psychology. Enlightenment spiritual , Divine illumination , and Subitism. Spirituality , Spiritual development , Self-realization , and Ego death. People by era or century.
Aspects of meditation Orationis Formas , Christian contemplation , Christian mysticism , Mystical theology , Apophatic theology , and German mysticism. Western esotericism , Spirituality , and New Age. Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. Notable early Notable modern Singers. Sant religion , Nirguna Brahman , and Sikhism. Presectarian Buddhism , Buddhist meditation , and Subitism. Scholarly approaches of mysticism. Attribution psychology and Neurotheology. Cook's translation "way of conviction" is rendered by other translators as "way of truth.
In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which bring it about that the mystical classics have, as been said, neither birthday nor native land.
Margery Kempe's tears and Teresa of Avila 's ecstasies are famous examples of such mystical phenomena. But many mystics have insisted that while these experiences may be a part of the mystical state, they are not the essence of mystical experience, and some, such as Origen, Meister Eckhart, and John of the Cross, have been hostile to such psycho-physical phenomena. It is a movement of the heart, as the individual seeks to surrender itself to ultimate Reality; it is thus about being rather than knowing.
For some mystics, such as Teresa of Avila, phenomena such as visions, locutions, raptures, and so forth are by-products of, or accessories to, the full mystical experience, which the soul may not yet be strong enough to receive. Hence these altered states are seen to occur in those at an early stage in their spiritual lives, although ultimately only those who are called to achieve full union with God will do so. Although it is difficult to differentiate which forms of experience allow such understandings, mental episodes supporting belief in "other kinds of reality" are often labeled mystical [ This factual, minimal interpretation depicts mysticism as an extreme and intense form of the insight seeking process that goes in activities such as solving theoretical problems or developing new inventions.
It is much to be hoped that it may be restored sooner or later to its old meaning, as the science or art of the spiritual life. To accomplish this, the re-formation is oriented at a mold, which represents the original shape: Different translations are possible: Waaijman points out that "spirituality" is only one term of a range of words which denote the praxis of spirituality. In his poems, proclaims over and over that, while beholding the uncreated Light, the deified man acquires the Revelation of God the Trinity. Being in "theoria" vision of God , the saints do not confuse the hypostatic attributes.
The fact that the Latin tradition came to the point of confusing these hypostatic attributes and teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also, shows the non-existence of empirical theology for them. Latin tradition speaks also of created grace, a fact which suggests that there is no experience of the grace of God. For, when man obtains the experience of God, then he comes to understand well that this grace is uncreated.
Without this experience there can be no genuine "therapeutic tradition. For the union with God in contemplation which is the highest object of our life he required a regular system of spiritual education beginning with baptism and passing through regulated exercises of penance and asceticism under the guidance of a director.
Mysticism - Wikipedia
But he had not conceived the grossly magic practices of the later Hesychasts; his ideal is still enormously more philosophical than theirs. Both denoye the potentiality of attaining Buddhahood. The named reference ODCC was invoked but never defined see the help page. Archived from the original on Princeton University Press, From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries.
University of Chicago Press, Cited in The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology , p. Oxford University Press US, , page SUNY Press, , pp. Genesis and Development of Tantrism. Stories Of Guru Nanak. Searching for Spiritual Unity A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. Minoru Kiyota and Elvin W.
In Karel Werner, ed. Curzon Press , pages 96— A guide for the Perplexed. The Teachings of the Mystics. The New American Library. Cambridge University Press, Archived from the original PDF on Drvinsky, Julie; Schachter, Steven , "Norman Geschwind's contribution to the understanding of behavioral changes in temporal lobe epilepsy: An Empirical Approach", pp — , New York: Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. Dzogchen, Bon, and the Logic of the Nonconceptual: Garfield, William Edelglass eds.
Jacobson , "Theory And Practice of Yoga: Koan Practice in the Rinzai Tradition since Hakuin. Part Two , Delhi: De directe bevrijdingsweg , Cothen: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences , New York: De ontmoeting van Zen met het Westen , Asoka: Huston Smith in Context. Methods and Philosophy , New York, Tokyo: An Empirical Approach , New York: A Monk's Memoir , Harper Collins.
Retrieved April 24, Archived from the original on 14 February Retrieved 14 November Major religious groups and religious denominations. Christianity Hinduism Islam Jainism Judaism. Abrahamic prophecy Aggadah Denominations Kabbalah Philosophy. Christian philosophy Scholasticism Thomism Renaissance humanism. Souls are a part of manifested Divine Consciousness; very much like the little whirlpools of air that I have so many times seen in the desert are a part of the sky.
Called dust devils, the little whirlpools might seem different from the sky from which they are made but this is only because of the debris each has picked up on its journey across the land. For it is only the movement, support and flowing of the whole sky that is carrying the dust. The whirlpools have no separate existence from the whole of the sky and can only maintain the appearance of an individualized structure as long as there is a creative impulse that is supporting them.
John of the Cross explained, the same concept is true of the soul.
Expressing itself through the substance of creation, the soul is that pure Infinite and omnipresent Consciousness, individually focused as each soul by the creative impulse, the wind of God. This is my understanding of the meaning behind the story of Adam and Eve. As an inseparatable part of Infinite Consciousness, as a wave in the ocean of infinite consciousness that is God, each soul exists as one of the countless individualizations existing within the whole. Each soul will eventually come to realize the simple truth that Moses spoke: Extending everywhere, within and as everything, Divine Consciousness God is all there is, ever has been, ever will or can be, and souls as well as all of creation as individualization's of It, are not now, never have been and never can be separate or apart from the whole of It.
The truth is that only Divine Consciousness exists. All things are One Thing. There is only God. Nicholas of Cusa, to writes: There is nothing that exists outside you, but all things in you are not other than you. You teach me, Lord, how otherness, which is not in you, does not exist in itself, nor can it exist. St Symeon, The New Theologian, to writes: God "Who is everywhere present and fills all things" was not, Scripture says, separated from it by location when He created this sensible world, but by the nature of the glory of His divinity, it being evident that nothing created approached or comprehended Him at all.
Indeed, being inseparable from all He is as clearly in all. Catherine of Siena, to speaking to God writes: You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea: The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you. You are insatiable, you in whose depth the soul is sated yet remains always hungry for you, thirsty for you, eternal Trinity, longing to see you with the light in your light. You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soul's selfish love; you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light.
In your light you have made me know your truth: You are that light beyond all light who gives the mind's eye supernatural light in such fullness and perfection that you bring clarity even to the light of faith. In that faith I see that my soul has life, and in that light receives you who are Light Truly this light is a sea, for it nourishes the soul in you, peaceful sea, eternal Trinity This water is a mirror in which you, eternal Trinity, grant me knowledge; for when I look into this mirror, holding it in the hand of love, it shows me myself, as your creation, in you, and you in me through the union you have brought about of the Godhead with our humanity.
Take the example of the ocean. In the whole of it, you cannot isolate any of its waves from the body from which they come, the body that supports them and upon which they owe their existence. Their substance cannot be removed and isolated and have them remain waves. Waves are more like impulses created by the wind or other creative forces that as impulses travel across the surface of the sea. You must realize that the particles of ocean water do not travel the thousands of miles from land to land that make up the birth individualization and death reabsorbtion into the whole that is the lifespan of a wave; that only the impulses travel and can be said to be waves.
The waves have no substance of their own that they can say this is me and not the ocean. Take away the wind or other creative impulse and what happens? Is not the whole of the ocean still there? Not one particle of it is missing but the waves cease to exist. The same is true of the soul.
There is no point at which you can isolate the soul's being from the whole of God. Like a wave, the soul is an impulse created by the wind of God that rides upon the surface of the body of Divine Consciousness. The saints who have directly experienced God repeatedly tell us that the soul has not substance of its own that it can say this is me and not God.
If the Wind of God should stop blowing, what happens? The whole of Divine Consciousness is still there. Not one particle is missing but the impulse, the manifested divine consciousness returns to formlessness, returns to that point in time before manifestation and souls as well as all else that is manifest as the heavens and earth will have ceased to exist. Have you ever wondered, why, with infinite endlessness behind and infinite endlessness ahead that there should even be this spec of time, this wisp of a movement of matter and energy that we look at as the last 12 to 15 billion years of the creation that is the physical universe?
In all of eternity, why now? In the eternity of the past, was God without creation. It makes little sense to me. It is pure speculation, but perhaps, all of creation's manifestation to merging back into the whole is but one day in the infinite past and infinite future life that is the forever and continuous now of God. Perhaps if each period of manifestation is followed by an equal period of unmanifest, formless rest it would make up the day and night of one day to God. If this is so, as some mystical traditions put forth, this would certainly explain why at this point in time in the vastness of eternity, the creation of the universe and the universe's and each soul's destiny in this vast eternity of time: For then everything is a continuous process.
The whole existence of the universe would only be one day in eternity, in an endless series of days and nights in eternity. But if creation is a continuous process throughout eternity, as it seems it must be, would not souls keep growing in number throughout eternity? How can there be an infinite number of finite manifestations of God? It is pure speculation on my part but perhaps there is also a natural process to the life of the soul; a day and night so to speak. We all have experienced that the soul is naturally born into ignorance and in the beginning is totally absorbed into the material, knowing nothing else of itself.
But perhaps the soul lives and gains experiences on earth and then in the heavens, and over millions or billions of years becomes less and less associated with the material and mental realms and more and more associated with universal Divine Consciousness. As with Christ, would not this be the perfect union? Only that which is not the soul is cast off. Not one drop of Divine consciousness is lost. On a more personal level where I do have an understanding, one of my students wrote this question: Does that mean, that God is not personal?
That we do not have a relationship with God as a human son and father would have, as the Gospels seem to portray Jesus having with His Heavenly Father? We cannot have a more personal relationship than that which we have with God. Divine Consciousness is the very core of our being and most mystics relate to God in a very personal way. But this does not mean that the ocean of Divine Consciousness, that is the Father, Christ and Holy Spirit, are personalities or a single personality that relate to us as we relate to them.
The saints tell us over and over again that God is not a big person in the sky that we can point to and say that God is there and not over there. The essence of our being is infinity, just as God is infinite but the soul is individualized infinity; infinity with a single focused point of individualization through which it relates. From this viewpoint it tends to personalize most everything. The ocean of Divine Consciousness, God, is not individualized and relates to each soul from the whole, from infinity.
God is the closest thing to us and yet is totally impersonal with us as well as everything else that exists within the whole. Knowing that it is His own dream playing out within Himself, it is as if God has stepped back and is simply watching the love, hate and drama of the play. But at the same time, through the Holy Spirit, God seems to be intimately available to His creation. At the many times that I have reached out to God, through intuitive consciousness or even in moments of distress, I have sometimes been answered with very personal responses in the nature of visions, comfort or understanding.
But over the course of many years and many experiences I have come to a much better understanding of the nature of these responses. I am not saying that it is not God who has responded but only that I have come to a better understanding of how something so completely impersonal can respond so personally. It is probably one of those revelations that instead of being told, should be experienced over the many years of one's life and then only after we have stepped back far enough from it all and have taken a deep hard look at it all before the truth of it all can settle in.
My first dramatic experience with comfort from the Holy Spirit is as follows. I think this experience illustrates how something so infinite and impersonal can at the same time be so personal. I was a young man, married to a woman of fundamentalist faith with a couple of children when the light of the Holy Spirit came so suddenly into my life. Not knowing anything about what was happening except how wonderful it all was, what is the first thing I did? Tell everyone I knew of the experiences and ask everyone what it all meant. Most thought I was totally out of my mind.
Intuitive conscious above normal consciousness, never heard of such a thing. Being enveloped in the golden light of the Holy Spirit, this guy thinks he is Jesus Christ.
No sane person has these experiences: I told my wife everything of these wonderful earth shaking to me experiences. She told her pastors and they told her I was possessed by the devil. She was afraid to be in the same room with me for the rest of our marriage. I know, old school, I just felt that personal happiness was far less important than duty. I still feel that way. Am I out of touch with the times, or what? I felt that I was totally alone in my experience and with no understanding of anything, I just sat down each morning and tried to become open to the Holy Spirit as best as I could.
One day, I cried out to God in my dismay. Why does no one understand? Why am I the only one? Why, just why am I being punished like this? I should add a really big disclaimer here but all I can do is relate how the following experience felt at the time. The reality of it is, well my understanding of such things has changed with 40 yrs time and so many more wonderful and sometimes to me earth shaking experiences. I was deep inside wallowing in my dismay. There was a rip in the heavens, I felt it.
Out poured the Holy Spirit, I saw it with my physical eyes. It descended like a golden cloud and wrapped itself around me as if I were a baby in its arms. It rocked me back and forth for a time and when it lifted from me all of my grief over no one else understanding and my isolation from the world lifted with it, never to return. I cannot describe the peace, comfort and joy. The reality of the experience, do the heavens rip? I was really young in the Holy Spirit and knew nothing of the inner path. Jesus said it better than I can.
Do not cast your pearls before swine because they will tear you to shreds. Especially if like me and so many others, you start having experiences and do not understand the process yourself. No one around you is going to understand and when you start telling them of your wonderful experiences you are going to lose friends and even family because they are all going to think you are crazy or worse.
Believe me, I know better than most. I will say it again. Learn silence as a virtue. This experience leads me to bricks. These bricks are my personal deep things of God observations. They should not be your absolute anything. From birth we all build a mental library within our minds of our experiences, and things we have read or have been told and hold to be true.
It is that part of the mind through which we view the world around us and try to make sense of it all. In mysticism the only way to make that library solid is by our own personal experiences. Any mentor of worth is always going to tell his students to never take anything said or written as the absolute truth but to build your library out of your own personal experiences.
These experiences of the deep things of God may be massive life changing revelations to a person, like the first experience with the Holy Spirit in my life was to me. To have my first experience to be falling into intuitive consciousness, which I did not know existed, immediately followed by being enveloped in the golden light of the Holy Spirit which before this I figured had run away and hid somewhere after the death of Jesus and the Apostles, was absolutely life changing, blew down the old library and putting in a massive new corner stone that will carry me through the rest of my life type of deep thing of God experience.
Those may happen only one or two times on the path to God. And a later experience written about in these lessons, of having the Holy Spirit tear my heart to shreds was probably the frosting on the cake of my first years with the Holy Spirit: All massive life changing experiences to me. But our library is also built of a multitude of small almost insignificant little experiences that probably would never mean anything to anyone. Like this simple observation. The Holy Spirit was active. I went outside to do some work in my back yard without a shirt on. When the sun hit my chest I felt a ball of energy build in my heart and very distinct fingers of energy spread throughout my torso.
My conclusion was that there must be some form of the Holy Spirit or sub atomic particle akin to it radiating from the sun that scientists know nothing about. Well, unless you are a nuclear physicist this observation is probably meaningless. Or you might come to the conclusion like I did that spending just a few minutes bare chested to the sun every week might be a good thing to do.
One or two massive cornerstone type deep things of God experiences, a multitude of little seeming unimportant deep things of God experiences, with numerous bricks of in-between size deep things of God personal experiences, over the years build a library of mystical personal deep things of God observations and understanding that cannot be blown down by anything, even death.
Very early in my spiritual life I was doing some personal research into the lives of the Desert Fathers. In order to bring the Spirit close, they would try to get their disciples to develop a deep sense of sorrow. They write that it is a sorrow that you do not want to get rid of. This seemed to be a really, really, really stupid thing to cultivate.
I have always been sorry for my sins. I have always rather hurt myself than another. But I could not understand why a person would want to go around in a state of sorrow, mentally beating themselves up over their sins. Just get over it and do better the next time. Feeling a little bit irritated, I put the book aside for my devotional time. I rested in the intuitive calm for a few minutes and the Holy Spirit lifted my awareness above the minds thoughts. Suddenly a sorrow poured through me that was so deep it went all the way down into my bones. It was like feeling all of the pain and suffering of the world at once.
But as the Holy Spirit filled my mind, I understood the grace of God extending to me and to all of humanity. Oh, what sweet sorrow that I did not want to lose. But I was totally mistaken in my previous thinking: Because for me, the sorrow had nothing to do with my petty sins or the worlds but everything to do with the Holy Spirit opening my heart so deeply that my soul could reach out and feel beyond its ego sense and embrace its own innate humanity.
Without the Holy Spirit opening my heart and bringing the experience of it directly to me, I would have never understood in a million years. The bible says that the seat of our emotions is in our hearts.
The whole spiritual process that Jesus left to us is nothing more than a war between the ego mechanism of our personalities and our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and diminish our ego sense and take us to the deep things of God is how this battle is fought and won or lost.
Diminishing the ego sense and opening our hearts purification is only the first step on the spiritual path. But to me, it is also seems the hardest step. The spiritual goal in this life that so few of us attain or even strive for is to have diminished our egos and opened our hearts to God, all of humanity and existence as much as possible before leaving this world. The reason that we see the gifts of the spirit around some of those that we call saints and not mankind as a whole, is that these particular saints have opened their hearts and diminished their egos to a point of selflessness.
The full power of the Holy Spirit will not function through the ego or egocentric individuals. The reason for this is that the full power of the Holy Spirit can only be used by the mind after it has risen through the opened heart.
- Defining The Christian Mystic;
True, we will sometimes see miracles around ordinary people but this usually only happens at a point of crisis where the thinking processes of the mind have collapsed and the only thing left is the heart in its pureness crying out to God. Many times the visions we have in contemplative prayer are not of the outer world but of our own nature.
During one period some mental mechanism had unlocked or moved away from me slightly. Instead of looking through the mind at the world, I was somewhat apart from the mind looking not through it but at it. It was as if I had become temporarily detached from its usual influence. For a couple of days I went around touching everything. The shift in consciousness made everything seem so much more crisp and clear; almost like getting a new set of glasses.
Before this I had read that we are not our minds but this time, I for the first time, felt it. As we progress on the spiritual path we will go through a number of shifts in consciousness. A student wrote of this experience: I was sort of looking back or sensing my busy mind from a place just beyond it where the stillness was. I was feeling a stillness I had never felt before. It only lasted a few minutes but my breathing practically stopped during that time. It felt as though I had actually stepped away from my mind.
The mind can be our best friend. By this I am speaking of the rational or thinking part of the mind coupled with the subconscious. Properly trained, it is what gives us the momentum, the inertia to find God. This is what I mean. If the mind is trained to move in a particular direction, its natural inclination is to keep moving in that direction. If you properly train the mind to meditate between seven and eight in the morning, it will try to do that every day.
The mind seems to like to stay in set patterns. Most meditators of even short length have had the experience of not being able to meditate at their regular hour only to have the mind at that hour, try to meditate in the middle of what they have been distracted to do. It is for this reason that it is a much easier path when we do our devotionals at regular times. For those seeking God, the mind left untrained, left unbridled, can be their worst enemy. The unbridled mind is constantly trying to seek greater activity and sensation. Eastern mystics call it the monkey mind.
Try to calm the untrained mind too quickly or too strenuously and like an outraged monkey it starts going into all sorts of contortions. This is perhaps the greatest problem for new meditators. Training the mind for quiet meditation needs to be a long gentle structured process, so be patient and gentle with yourself and give yourself the proper length of time to let your efforts come to fruition. The main problem with the mind is that for most of us it distorts everything it sees. For most of us our minds are not yet clear panes of glass but are as St.
John of the Cross explained; muddied and rippled. Looking through the clutter we cannot see reality or ourselves as we truly are. The subconscious part of the mind holds pain, fear, misemotion, all of the distorted opinions and tendencies that from childhood up have been imposed on us from others and society in general, as mind stuff whirlpools. The whirlpools spin off ripples of irrational opinions, fears, hatreds, compulsions and unworthy habits that sometimes dominate our lives.
Because of the minds programming, clutter and distorted vision through which it is experiencing life, the soul cannot see God or its true nature clearly. It gets even worse: The problem is that for most, our personalities and even our basic views of life are programmed into us and even seem to be etched in stone before we are even old enough to do anything about it. Our personalities seem to rest in some almost inaccessible part of the subconscious and are extraordinarily difficult to change once the programming of our youth is set in place. For most souls, if they are born of conservative parents, in a conservative environment with conservative peer pressure, they will be conservatives and will have a thousand perfectly good rationalizations as to why their conservative view of life is the only correct one.
But if these very same souls were to be born of liberal, religious, nonreligious, other religious, racist, nonracist, nationalistic or pluralistic families in a like environment they would be born and raised of this new view and also have a thousand perfectly good rationalizations as to why each one of these views of life is the only correct one. This very basic fact should tell us straight out that our basic views of life and how we think things should be, have less to do with the truth of anything than they do with how we born and raised.
The problem is not the particular view or even whether it is true or not but the irrational motivation behind the rationalization even when the rationalization is accidently correct It is the us and them attitude that our personalities always seemed compelled to create that is the real problem. In every rationalization that the personality uses to justify each of its own views as being separate and better than others, no matter what the us and them may be about, the ego does little more than strengthen itself, bind the soul to the material and close its heart so that the soul is incapable of experiencing its true spiritual nature.
The soul is not born into this world knowing its true nature or knowing much of the truth of anything for that matter. It is not in every way but mostly born with a clean slate. What we are all born with is an ego mechanism our personality that gives us our individualism but also a feeling of separateness and isolation from everything else.
The technical reason for this is that our egos are closed operating and rationalizing systems just like Windows or Mac for the computer and without the opening of the heart to reach out and feel beyond this closed system, the soul is utterly incapable of feeling beyond its own thinking processes and fixing its condition. There has to be an impulse from outside of its own thinking processes to do this.
The ego and its wrappings around the soul, that is, the us and them attitude of life that we so commonly see is the basic mechanism that occludes the truth of existence from us, keeps the power of the Holy Spirit from entering our lives and is the single factor that traps the soul in the material. If we want to know how long we will be trapped in the material universe and barred from the spiritual realms, we just need to look at our us and them factor. You know, how much smugness and delight do we take in the rightness of our own views? How much distain do we have for other views that do not fit in with our own?
How much pleasure do we feel in the embarrassment and pain of those that do not fit in with us? The what is meaningless: It is only about the mechanism. It is the egos mechanism of separation that binds and occludes the soul from realizing the truth of existence and only this. Anyway, this mistaken feeling of separateness, this mistaken feeling of isolation from the whole of existence is the basic human condition into which every one of us has been born.
We have been thrown out of the Garden into a world of thorns and thistles! We must learn to reach out to the Holy Spirit and God through our hearts. They and our own true nature in them cannot be found through the rationalizations of the mind. And even when we understand the mechanism, even when we know what the problem is, it will still usually take a lifetime of meditation to have the spiritual strength to go beyond it. If it was all that easy, we would all be doing miracles. Even when we are not old, many of us have a terrible time with pain and illnesses.
I am not saying that deep prayer will cure the problem but it may help us cope a little better. Perhaps my own personal experience will help explain. For several years I had been doing a type of production work that strained the muscles on one side of my neck. The muscles on that side became stronger than the muscles on the other side.
The long term problem that resulted was that when I would sit down for my devotional time, trying to sit with spine relaxed but erect very painfully my neck would continually be pulled to one side. My devotional time was two hours in the morning and two hours at night but after an hour the pain would become so intense that I could not handle it and would have to stop.
Eventually I decided to stay with it and put in the whole two hours no matter how bad the pain became. For an hour the pain kept building until it was almost unbearable and I would normally stop. This time I focused more deeply and continued. Within a few minutes of deeper concentration, I heard a small snap inside the center of my head and was instantly numb from head to toe, resting in a wonderful peace. I had not been lifted into intuitive consciousness to experience this.
I seemed to come as a natural course of deeper focus during my devotional time. Throughout the period of the neck problem, in my devotional time I would feel the pain build for a while, then there would be a snapping sound in my head and after for as long as I wished, I could continue my meditation in total comfort and peace. Think of the blessing being able to do this could be for those who are recovering from injury or illness. The most important point of all this might be that if we are not strong enough or willing to work through the pain or periods of spiritual dryness, we may never have the opportunity to open ourselves to the blessings that can result.
A student writes about her similar experience: I am also drawn to Brother Lawrence for I wish to do everything for the love of God, for Himself, not for reward, experience or any other reason. That is my desire, and the Lord is working in me by the power of the Spirit to grant the desire of my heart. I discovered, quite by accident one day that contemplative prayer does relieve pain. I have had reconstructive surgery for a birth defect that went unnoticed until I was I now have fibromyalgia, an arthritic disease of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.