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The Human Condition - 6
The Greek Fathers called this process deification. God has called us through the gosdpel into an adventure of faith, hope, and love that involves being introducted to the inner life of the Ultimate Reality, whom we call God in the Christian tradition. The same same unconditional love that moves in God is moving in us by grace, supplanting the human ego with the divine "I," We begin to manifest in daily life not our false selves and prejudices, but the infinite tenderness of God, the concern of God for every living thing, especially for the needy and the poor.
Without profound purification, how far can social action have a false self, too. They need to know the dynamics that are at work withib them. Otherwise, social projects may fall apart, or they will suffer burnout. "Where are you?" is, indeed, a question of great magnitude. Are you still at the age of one or two, where your emotional program for security is the chief energy that determines your decisions and relationships, especially the relationship between God and you? Are you soenamored with your religion that you have a native loyalty that cannot see the real faults that are present in a particular faith community? Do you sweep under the rug embarrassing situations and bow to the security or esteem needs of the commun ity?
All human history is under the influence of the false-self system that easily moves from our hearts into our families, communities, and nations and then afflicts the whole hum, an race. God invites us to take responsibility for being human and to open ourselves to the unconscious damage that is influencing our decisions and relationships.If psychologists and psychiatrists would be in dialogue with the insights of St. John of the Cross and those who experience the dark nights, there could be a marvelous symbiosis of treatment. We are not sick just because of some physiological pathology. It is not just a question of sin either; it is a question of the human condition, for which none of us is initially responsible but, on becoming adults, we are not called to be responsible.
How do we cultivate any friendship? By spending time together with those to whom we are attracted. There are stages of building any relationship, beginning with getting acquainted, which is a bit awkward; through friendliness, which is more pleasant; to friendship, which is a commitment; to various levels of union and unity that restore the state intimacy that was lost symbolically in the Garden of Eden. Here we are under the influence of unconscious drives of various intensity that in turn influence our decisions and relationships with other people and foul them up. We have to begin to take the trail to truth. This is what the Gospel invites us to do. We donn't know much about the prayer life of Jesus. St Paul urged his disciples to pray without ceasing. Contemplative prayer is a deeping of faith that moves beyond thought and concepts.
One just listens to God, open and receptive to the divine presence in one's inmost being as its source. One listens not with a view of hearing something, but with the view to becoming aware of the of the obstacles to one's friendship with God. Contemplative prayer starts modestly, but as soon as it begins to reach a certain intensity, it opens us to the unconscious. Painful memories that we have forgotten or repressed begin to come to consciousness. Primitive emotions that we felt as children and that we have been compensating for may come to consciousness.
How should we handle these afflictive emotions? By facing them, by feeling them. Feelings that have been repressed have to be allowed to pass through our awareness once again in order to be left behind for good. Most of the time, they don't need psychotherapy; they just need to be evacuated. We might say that we are suffering from acute psychic indigestion, a nausea of a psychological character that is interfering with our mental health and all our relationships.
In contemplative prayer, the rest we experience is so deep that it allows the inner defense to relax, and the body, with its great capacity for health, says, "Let's get rid of these emotional blocks once and for all." The psychic nervous system may explode in primitive emotions or intolerable memories. For a few minutes, you feel that you would rather be in hell. But then it is over.
Some problems, admittedly, are so serious that one needs psychiatric help. It is important that there be teamwork between spiritual guides and psychological professionals. If we are talking about the health of a human being, we are not just talking about the body or even the emotions; we are talking about a whole range of human potential, including spiritual health. These aall have to be treated at once if we want to get well. This is what contemplative prayer does. But it doesn't act alone. Its fruits need to be worked into daily life.
Contemplative prayer begins to make us aware of the divine presence within us, the source of true happiness. As soon as we begin to taste the peace that comes from the regular practice of contemplative prayer, it relativizes the whole unreal world of demands and "shoulds," of aversions and desires that were based on emotional programs for happiness that might have worked for children, but that are, in fact, killing us. "Where are you?" God's question to us never changes. In some cases, life has been so tragic that we are not free to decide where we are. But the power of divine grace, especially as it is experienced in contemplative prayer, opens us to the unconscious and introduces us to a world of unlimited possibilities that are unknown to us now.
Every human pleasure is meant to be a stepping stone to knowing God better or to discovering some new aspect of God. Only when that stepping stone becomes an end in itself-that is, when we overidentify with it- does it distort the divine intention. Everything in the universe is meant to be a reminder of God's presence.
God is existence. In everything that exists, God is present. The greatest reality is God's presence. The problem is that we only access that presence to the degree that our interior life is attuned to it. Hence the importance in the Christian tradition of listening to sacred scripture, which is much more than just listenin g to its literal meaning. It is sitting with the text in the presence of the Holy SDpirit and allowing the Spirit to deepen our capacity to listen.
That in no way denigrates the value of the literal;listening simply doesn't stop there. The external word of God in us. When that happens, we become, in a certain sense, the word of God. The presence of God begins to be felt very gently. As it becomes stronger and more pervasive, it initiates a gradual return to the state of intimacy that the story of the Garden of Eden describes in mythological form. ( Mythology is not untruth; it is simply an attempt to speak the truth in a symbolic way that points to a reality beyond words or concepts.)
The Gospel introduces us to divine therapy for the illness of the human condition in the form of contemplative prayer, which addresses not only the distortions of our conscious behaviour, b ut also the dynamics of the unconscious. Contemplation provides us with the courage to face the second great question of the spiritual journey: Who are You?
Reference: The Human Condition - Contemplation and Transformation: Thomas Keating
Cosmic Consciousness - 3 - On the Plane of Self Consciousness
Sir Charles Lyell, in the "Antiquity of Man" , pointed out the parallelism which exists between the origin, growth, decline and death of languages and of spececies in the organic world. In order to illustrate and at the same time broafen the present argument let us extend the parallel backward to the formation of the worlds and forward to the evolution of words and concepts.
The accompanying table will serve this purpose as well as, or better then, an elaborately reasoned exposition, and will serve at the same time as a symmary of the evolution argument which runs through this volume.
As regards the present thesis the conclusion to be drawn from this comparison is that words, and that therefore the constituent elements of the intellect which they represent and which we call concepts, grow by division and branching, as new species branch off from older, and it seems clear that a normal growth is encouraged and an excessive and useless development checked by the same means in the one case as in the other-that is, by natural selection and the struggle for existence.
New concepts, and words expressing them, which correspond with some external reality (whether this is a thing, an act, state, or a relation0, and which are therefore of use to man, since their existence places him in more complete relation with the outer world, on which relation his life and welfare depend, are preserved by the process of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Some again which either do not correspond at all, or only imperfectly, with an objective reality are replaced by others which do correspond or correspond better with the reality which these aimed to express, and so in the struggle for existence fall into disguise and die out.
The idiom of nomads, as Grimm says, contain an abundant wealth of manifold expressions for sword and weapons, and for the different stages in the life of cattle. In a more highly cultivated language these expressions become burthensome and superfluous. But in a peasant's mouth the bearing, calving, falling and killing of almost every animal has its own peculiar term, as the sportman delights in calling the gait members of game by different names.
Reference: Cosmic Consciousness: A study in the Evolution of the HUman Mind; Richard maurice Bucke
The Human Condition - 5
That is why St. Paul could say, "What I want to do, I don't do. And what I don't want to do I find myself doing" ( Rom 7:15ff). If we don't face the consequences of unconscious motivation - through a practice of discipline that opens us to the unconscious-then that motivation will secretly influence our decisions all through our lives.
One needs a willingness to be exposed to the unconscious. This requires some courage and persistence. We can't call up the unconscious at will. With the help of psychotherapy, we might be able to call up some of it. The dark nights described by St. John of the Cross go much deeper. Normally, emotions need to be expressed in some way in order to be processed. Emotions are energy. If they are not processed, they become blocks in our bodies and nervous systems to the free flow of our energy systems of grace.
When we are not thinking, analyzing, or planning and place ourselves in the presence of God in faith, we open ourselves to the contents of the unconscious. We should do this gradually so as not to be overtaken by an overwhelming explosion of emotion. A generation ago, in the psychedelic era, people opened themselves to the unconscious before they had the humility or the devotion to God to be able to handle it. The unconscious needs tp be respected and approached with prudence.
Some one who is involved in contemplative prayer practice needs guidance. It may not be available in every spiritual guide who comes along. What matters most is fidelity to the daily practice of a contemplative form of prayer such as Centering Prayer. This gradually exposes us to unconscious at a rate that we can handle and places us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Divine love then prepares us to receive the maximum that God can possibly communicate of his inner light. Besides the dark side of the unconscious, there are all kinds of other awesome energies-for example, natural talents, the fruits of the Spirit, the seven gifts of the Spirit, and the divine indwelling self-that we haven't experienced yet and that are waiting to be discovered.
It is never too late to start the spiritual journey or to start over, and it is worth starting over any number of times. If you are over eighty, you will be happy to know that there is an accelerated course. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the course of dying, there are all kinds of transforming experiences.
What God is after are our good intention and our efforts in this life, but just keep trying. The contemplative journey, because it involves the purification of the unconscious, is not a magic carpet to bliss. It is an exercise of letting go of the false self, a humbling processes, because it is the only self we know.
God approaches us from many different perspectives; illness, misfortune, bankruptcy, divorce proceedings, rejection, inner trials. God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us to change our attitudes toward them. That is what holiness really is. In this life, Happiness is rooted in our basic attitude toward reality.
Sometimes a sense of failure is a great means to true humility, which is what God most looks for in us. I realize this is not the language of success, but we have oversubscribed to that language. We need to hear about the interior freedom that comes through participation in the sufferings of Christ, the symbol of God's love for everyone on earth.
In the coming millennium, religious leaders and spiritual teachers might consider as their primary responsibility not so much to convert new constituents or new followers to a particular form of meditation, but to create communion-harmony, understanding, and a respect for everyone in the human family, especially the members of other religions.
In the world that lies ahead, religious pluralism is going to penetrate all cultures. How we live together with different points of view is going to become more and more important. I don't know whether we can make progress in such a project without a contemplative practice that alterts us to our own biases, prejudices, and self-centred programs for happiness, especially when they trample on other people's rights and needs.
Some people enter religious life looking for the family they never had. But religious life isn't that kind of family. Some people get married because they want the mother who did the laundry and provided a shoulder to cry on. Many people who enter marriage are too immature to handle its responsibilities. That is why they often break up and have to start over. But if they are not aware of the unconscious factors that caused the breakdown of the first marriage, they will just bring the same problems into the next marriage.
The false self is looking for fame, power, wealth, and prestige. The unconscious is very powerful until the divine light of the Holy Spirit penetrates to its depths and reveals its dynamics. Here is where the great teaching of the dark nights of St. John of the Cross corresponds to depth psychology, only the work of the Holy Spirit goes far deeper.
Instead of trying to free us from what interferes with our ordinary human life, the Spirit calls us to transformation of our inmost being, and indeed of all our faculties, into the divine way of being and acting..
Reference:The Human Condition: Thomas keating
The Indian master Phadampa Sangye once told Jetsun Milarepa, "your lineage is like a river stream- it will flow a long way." And it has, remaining vital and alive up to the present day. It's no coincidence that Milarepa's extemporaneous teachings in song are receiving attention now from the western world's practitioners., for our religious situation is much like that of Mila's time.
Until the event of Buddhism in Tibet, the people were for the most part religiously naive, following a cult of elaborate ahamanism. As Buddhism began to be assimilated through the teachings of repesentatives of many diverse schools, a process of evaluation, adaptation, and the integration was begun, leaving in its wake a newly awakened religious consciousness.
Likewise in the West, our religious traditions have been established for many centuries as a tacit acceptance of certain beliefs and codes rater than a practice of self-liberation. And here also the impact of the religious systems of the East has lent impetus to the birth of a more comprehensive awareness of our spiritual nature and its potential.
A major element in any time of profound transition is confusion. faced with so many alternatives in belief and practice, the Tibetans brought into paly their basic sense of perspective and inclination toward unity, just as we, with our characteristic drive to ascertain the unifying principles of things, always push forward an integrated, well-ordered view of the universe.
Both cultures have succumbed at times to the same mistakes in assimilating this new material: oversimplification to the point of uselessness, mixing divergent elements instead of integrating them into a unified system, unproductive intellectual speculation, and dogmatic adherence to one interpretation over all others.
During such transitional periods persons of practical bent are primarily concerned with evaluating the various systems of thought to ascertain the "right practice." Milarepa appeared at such a time when a good number of practitioners were so engaged. Some pursued their quest in the large or small groups of monastic institutions, while others, like Milarepa, wandered the mountains and country side in the lifestyle of the Indian sannyasin-long haired, socially aloof, homeless and without possessions, begging in the streets of the villages and meditating in isolated retreats. This is the most significant difference between Milarepa's cultural environment and ours.
In the Tibet of Milarepa's day as in India before that, there was a social acknowledgment and even respect for the pursuit of self-realization. Though it was beyond the scope of most people, a space existed outside the confines of social forms for those who were willing to give up home and possessions for the slim chance of gaining realization. Even with social acceptability life wasn't easy for a yogi of Milarepa's time.
There was competition from other hungry mendicant's and from more established religious institutions. It wasn't always easy to beg a meal from poor peasant who were tired of tending the needs of wild-eyed strangers in their villages. For these villagers Milarepa was a constant wonder and challenge. He entertained them with song, scolded and criticized, cajoled, played sarcastic jokes, and encouraged them with his compassion.
He taught them the straight Dharma, and through all of it shone the uniqueness of his personality, the penetrating intensity of his intellect, and the radiance of his realization. Mila's life and his many exploits are best told in his autobiography and in the Hundred Thousand Songs
He frequently had to explain to himself, and he told his life story many times , as in the first selection in this volume. He was born in 1952 in a small town in provincial Tibet. His family name Mila descended from a paternal ancestor who was credited with powers of exorcism, and he was given the surname Thopa Ga Joy-to Hear.
Because of his father's successful trading business , his family was wealthy by village standards, but his father's death, while Mila and his younger sister were still children, left them homeless. They were victimized by a paternal aunt and uncle, who forced the mother and her two children to work as servants and laborers.
Mila left, and on his mother's instruction, went to study with a shaman skilled in supernormal powers. Mila had a natural bent for mystical things and quickly acquired powers of a destructive nature, particularly that of causing devastating hailstorms. Thus equipped, Mila returned to his village to satisfy his mother's desire for vengeance. He committed the murder of his aunt's entire family and then fled.
Eventually he regretted his actions and the enormous karmic obstruction they perpetrated.
Realizing that this action had to be corrected in this same lifetime to prevent a very unfavourable rebirth, he sought religious instruction in Buddhism.
Reference: Drinking The Mountain Stream-Songs of Tibet's Beloved Saint Milarepa.
On the Plane of Self Consciousness - 2
The important fact to notice at present is that, true to the simile of the tree here adopted, the numerous faculties of which (viewed from the side of dynamics) man is composed are all of different ages. Each one of them came inot existence in its own time, 1.e., when the psychic orfanism (the tree) was ready to produce it. For intance: Simple consciousness many millions of years ago; Self Consciousness perhaps three hundred thousand years. General vision in enormously old, but the color sense probably only about a thousand generations. Sensibility to sound many millions of years, while the musical sense is now in the act of appearing. Sexual instinct or passion arose far back in geologic ages-the human moral nature of which human sexual love is a young and vigorous branch does not appear to have been in existence many tens of thousands of years.
To make what has been and what remains to be said more readily and more fully intelligible it will be well to go into some little detail as to the time and mode of becoming and developing of a few faculties as a sample of the divine work that has been going on within us and about us since the dawn of life on this planet.
The science of human psychology (inorder to illustrate the subject of this volume) should give an account of the human intellect, of the human moral nature, and of the senses. Should give a description of these as they exist to-day, of their origin and evolution and should forecast their future course of either decay or further expansion. Only a very few specimen pages of such a work can be here set forth-and first a hasty glances at the intellect.
The intellect is that part of the mind which knows, as the moral nature is the part that feels. Each particular act of the intellect is instantaneous, whereas the acts ( or rather states) of the moral nature are more or less continuous. Langage corresponds to the intellect and is therefore capable of expressing it perfectly and directly; on the other hand, the functions of the moral nature (belonging, i.e., deriving, as they do, from the great sympathetic nervous system-while the intellect and speech rest upon and spring from the Cerebro-Spinal) are not connectedwith language and are only capable of indirect and imperfect expression by its agency.
Perhaps music, which certainly has its roots in the moral nature, is, as at present existing, the beginning of a language which will tally and express emotion as words tallyu and express ideas [28a 106]. Intellectual acts are complex, and decomposable into many parts; moral states are either absolutely simple as in the case of love, fear, hate) or nearly so; that is, are composed of comparatively few elements. All intellectual acts are alike, or nearly alike, in that regard; moral states have a very wide range of degree of intensity.
The human intellect is made up principally of concepts, just as a fores is made up of trees or a city of houses; these concepts are mental images of things, acts, or relations. The registration of these we call memory, the comparison of them one with another reasoning; for the building of these up into more complex images (as bricks are built into a house) we have in English no good expression; we sometimes call this act imagination (the act of forming a mental copy or likeness)-the Germans have a better still Einbildungskraft (the power of building up). The large intellect is that in which the number of concepts is above the average; the fine intellect is that in which these are clear cut and well defined; the ready intellect is that in which they are easily and quickly accessible when wanted, and so on.
The growth of the human intellect is the growth of the concepts, i.e., the multiplication of the more simple and at the same time the building up of these into others more and more complex. Although this increase in number and complexity is taking place constantly in every active mind during at least the first half of life, from infancy to middle age, and though we each know that we have concepts now that we had not some time ago, yet probably the wisest of us could not tell from observation made upon his own mind just by waht process these new concepts came into existence-where they came from or how they came.
But though we cannot perceive this by direct observation either of our own mind or that or another person, still there is another way by which the occult process can be followed and that is by means of language. As said above, language is the exact tally of the intellect: for every concept; there is a word or words and for every word there is a concept; neither can exist apart from the other.
So Trench says; " You cannot impart to any man more than the words which he understands either now contain or can be made intelligibly to him to contain". Or as Max Mueller expresses it: "Without speech no reason, without mreason no speeh." Speech and the intellect do not correspond with one anotherin this way by accident, the relation between them is inevitably involved in the nature of two things Or are they two things? or two sides of one thing" No word can come into being except as the expression of a concept, neither can a new concept can be formed without the formation (at the same time) of the new word which is its expression, though this "new word" may be spelled and pronounced as in some old word. But an old word taking on another and a new meaning in reality becomes two words, an old and a new.
Intellect and speech fit one another as the hand and the glove, only far more closely; say rather they fit as the skin fits the body, or as the pia mater fits the brain, or as any given species in the organic world is fitted by its environment. As in implied in what has been said, it is to be especially noted that not only does language fit the intellect in the sense of covering it in every part and following all its turnings and windings, but it fits it also in the sense of not going beyond it. Words correspond with concepts, and with concepts only, so that we cannot express directly with either sense impressions or emotions, but are forced always to convey these (if at all) by expressing, not themselves, but the impressions they make upon our intellect, i.e., the concepts formed from the contemplation of them by the intellect-Cosmic consciousness, intellect-in other words, their intellectual image.
So that before a sense impression or an emotion can be embodied or conveyed in language a concept has to be formed (supposed more or less truly to represent it), which concept can, of course, be conveyed in words. But as a matter of fact ninety-nine out of every hundred of our sense impressions and emotions have never been represented in the intellect by concepts and therfore remain unexpressed and inexpressible except imperfectly by a roundabout description and suggestion.
There exists in the lower animals a state of matters which serves well to illustrate this proposition. These have acute sense perceptions and strong emotions, such as fear, rage, sexual passion and maternal love, and yet cannot express thembecause they have no language of their own, and the animals in question have no system of concepts with corresponding articulate sounds. Granted to us our sense perceptions and our human moral natures and we should be as dumb as are the animals had we not along with these an intellect in which they may be mirrored and by which, by means of language, they can be expressed.
As the correspondence of words and concepts is not casual or temporary but resides in the nature of these and continues during all time and under all circumstances absolutely constant, so changes in one of the factors must correspond with changes in the other. So evolution of intellect must (if it exists) be accompanied by evolution of language. An evolution of language (if it exists) will be evidence of evolution of intellect. What then is here proposed is to study (for a few moments) the growth pof the intellect by means of an examination of language, i.e., to study the birth, life, and growth of concepts which cannot be seen, means of words which are their co-relatives and which can be seen.
Reference: Cosmic Consciousness: Richard Maurice Bucke