Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Contemplative Prayer and God

Contemplative prayer "can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized." It is "the experiential grasp of reality as subjective, not so much 'mine' (which would signify 'belonging to the external self') but 'myself' in existential mystery..." and "the humble realization of our mysterious being as persons in whom God dwells, with our infinite sweetness and inalienable power." It is not "mere inertia, a tendency to inactivity, to psychic peace", it is not "trance or ecstasy, nor the hearing of sudden unutterable words, nor the imagination of lights", and neither is it "the emotional fire and sweetness that come with religious exaltation" nor "the sense of being 'seized' by an elemental force and swept into mystical liberation by mystical frenzy." One shouldn't expect "an escape from conflict, from anguish or from doubt. Contemplative prayer is not a form of 'spiritual anesthesia.' " In fact "the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is." Rather one discovers that "there is no 'what' that can be called God" and instead God "is the the 'Thou' before whom our inmost 'I' springs into awareness."

-originally quoted from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton, pp.6, 8, 9-13, 15; excerpts taken from Prayer for People Who Think Too Much by Mitch Finley

"It is just this idea of religion which makes any understanding of religion impossible. If you start with the question whether God does or does not exist, you can never reach Him; and if you assert that He does exist, you can reach Him even less than if you assert that he does not exist. A God whose existence or nonexistence you can argue is a thing beside others within the universe of existing things... It is regrettable that scientists believe that they have refuted religion when they rightly have shown that there is no evidence whatsoever for the assumption that such a being exists. Actually, they have not only not refuted religion, but they have done it a considerable service. They have forced it to reconsider and to restate the meaning of the tremendous word God. Unfortunately, many theologians make the same mistake. They begin their message with the assertion that there is a highest being called God, whose authoritative revelations they have received. They are more dangerous for religion than the so-called atheistic scientists. They take the first step on the road which inescapably leads to what is called atheism. Theologians who make of God a highest being who has given some people information about Himself, provoke inescapably the resistance of those who are told they must subject themselves to the authority of this information."

-Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, pp.3

"God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him."

-Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, volume 1, pp.206

Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

  1. A great post, many thanks! I have long been a huge fan of Thomas Merton, a man of beautiful depth of understanding. This is a beautiful quote of his, one that in my humble opinion more Buddhists will 'get' than Christians. But alas, I have found some other Christians for whom these words ring with great truth.

    Thanks again, Justin


Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Everything but spam and abusive comments are welcome. Logging in isn't necessary but if you don't then please "sign" at the end of your comment. You can choose to receive email notifications of new replies to this post for your convenience, and if you find it interesting don't forget to share it. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...