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The Human Condition-Thomas Keating

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The Human Condition-Thomas Keating

In 1997 Father Keating is one of the architects of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplat97, Father Thomas Keating became the fifth person to deliver the Harold M. Wit Lecture on living a Spiritual Life in the Contemporary Age at Harvard Divinity School. Born in New York City in 192, Father Keating entered the Cistercian Order in 1944 in Valley Falls, Rhode Island. Fourteen years later he was appointed superior of St.Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, and in 1961 he was elected Abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, a large Cistercian monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts.

After two decades in Spencer, he returned in 1981 to Snossmass, where he established a program of intensive ten-day retreats in the practice that he calls Centering Prayer, a contemporary form of the Christian contemplative tradition. Father Keating is one of the architects of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, a support system for those on the contemplative pathe. He is also a former chairman of Monastiic Inter-religious Dialogue, which sponsors exchanges between monks and nuns of the world's religions; a member of the International committee for Peace Council, which foster dialogue and cooperation among world's religions; and a member of the Snowmass Interreligious Conference, a group of teachers from the world's religions who meet yearly to share their experience of the spiritual journey in their respictive traditions.

He is the author of several best-selling books on the contemplative tradition, including Open Mind Open Heart, The Mystery of Christ, Invitation to Love and Intimacy with God.

When he visited Harvard Divinity School, Father Keating delivered two lectures and led a service of Centering Prayer in the chapel of Andover Hall. In an era when the commodification of spirituality in America seems inescapable, his presence and message were genuinely inspiring and encouraging. Thus he fulfilled the desire of Harold M. Wit, who established the lecture series in 1988, to bring to Harvard "unusual individuals who radiate in their thought, word, and being those spiritual qualities and values that have been so inspiring and encouraging to me along my path." 

The publication of these lectures gives me the chance once again to acknowledge with gratitude Harold Wit, a generous benefactor of Harvard Divinity School, and to thank Thomas Keating for bringing together in these lectures the Christian Contemplative tradition with insights from contemporary psychology. May his lectures serve as a guide to "true peace" sane counsel  and spiritual comfort in God," in the words of The Cloud of Unknowing, the fourteenth-century English spiritual classic on which Centering Prayer is largely based.

Where are you? This is one of the great questions of all time. It is the focus of the first half of the spiritual journey. Biblical scholars and readers will remember that in Genesis 3 it is the question God asked when Adam and Eve had taken off for the underbush after their disobedience. He called out to them and said, "Adam, where are you?" They were hiding in the woods, and God was looking for them. Adam said, "We heard your voice, and were scared because we were naked." So God said, "How did you know you were naked?"

This marvellous story of creation is not just about Adam and Eve. It is really about us. It is a revelation of where we are. The same question is addressed to every generation, time, and person. At every moment of our lives God is asking us, "where are you? Why are you hiding?" all the questions that are fundamental to human happiness arise when we ask ourselves this excruciating question: Where am I? Where am I in relation to God, to myself, and to others/ These are the basic questions of human life.

As soon as we answer honestly, we have began the spiritual search for God, which is also the search for ourselves. God is asking us to face the reality of the human condition, to come out of the woods into the full light of intimacy with him. That is the state of mind that Adam and Eve had, according to the story, before their disobedience. As soon as they became aware of their seperation from God, they headed for the woods. They had to hide from God because the loss of the intimacy and union that they had enjoyed with him in paradise was so painful.

Reference: The Human Condition: Ronald F Thieman


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