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The Human Condition - 5

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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

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