Sunday, January 17, 2016

On Meditation and Centering Prayer – Part II

In the introduction to this wonderful edition of The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Orientation, William Johnston says the following [1]:

God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. So less thinking and more loving

And while this is true in a sense, it is only valid when the Way of Transformation makes one capable of loving without the dark barriers of the carnal mind.

The problem is not lack of Love, but love without humble Wisdom and Force to resist darkness. Not even the Source lacks those qualities.

The human soul (emotions) is female in relation to the silent and discerning mind–i.e Christ mind. And when the spirit/will unites them both, the loving Light descends from deeper levels making the transformation possible. But this cannot take place mechanically. The divine will must be allowed to act in oneself so the union can take place.

Now, if one does not know how the mind and heart merge in the temple of the body, the emotional soul cannot be purified nor recognize any higher authority. She remains widow.

Without her husband, the emotional soul gets filled with pride, envy, bitterness, anger and other poisons that come from emotional love, which becomes its opposite, unlike conscious love, which engenders the same in response.

Love alone is very dangerous; when Light is blocked from below, Love becomes destructive, causing damage at the physical and psychological levels.

All diseases and wars of humankind are due to repressed Love and Light, manifested as negative emotions.

The true Kingdom of Heaven mentioned by Jesus is Heaven on Earth, where there is no war, death or disease, because there humans have their light body, soul and spirit restored.

Today humans are no longer the image of the Tree of Life, but we are fallen, holding a distorted image, a tree of death.

Therefore, the Love that descends from above can be either a cure to restore the original image or the greatest nightmare.

Proof of this is all the nonsense and killings carried out in the name of God and under the protection of external religious paraphernalia.

Self-knowledge at all levels is necessary to go beyond the limitations of external religion, which has value only as an introduction or hint, but not as the ultimate means to grow, abandon the cycle of death and rebirth and enter the Kingdom.

In this sense we must understand the warnings of The Cloud of Unknowing:

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To you, whoever you are, who may have this book in your possession... I lay this charge upon you and implore you with all the power and force that the bond of charity can command. You are not to read it yourself or to others, or to copy it; nor are you to allow it so to be read in private or in public or copied willingly and deliberately, insofar as this is possible, except by someone or to someone who, as far as you know, has resolved with steadfast determination, truly and sincerely to be a perfect follower of Christ [the indwelling Christ embryo, the inner Messiah and the Teaching handed down from Adam]; and this not only in the active life, but in the contemplative life, at the highest point which a perfect soul in this present life can possibly reach, with the help of grace, whilst it still dwells in this mortal body. (different translation, by James Walsh)

As for the method of meditation-contemplation, it´s described in Chapter 3:

This is what you are to do: lift your heart up to God, with a gentle stirring of love desiring God for God’s own sake and not for any gifts. Center all your attention and desire on God and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart. Do all in your power to forget everything else […] 

And so diligently persevere in it until you feel joy in it. For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, as it were, a cloud of unknowing. You will seem to know nothing and to feel nothing except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being. Try as you might, this darkness and cloud will remain between you and your God. You will feel frustrated, for your mind will be unable to grasp God, and your heart will not relish the delight of God’s love. But learn to be at home in this darkness. Return to it as often as you can, letting your spirit cry out to God whom you love. For if, in this life, you hope to feel and see God as God must be within this darkness and this cloud. But if you strive to fix your love on God forgetting all else, which is the work of contemplation I have urged you to begin, I am confident that God in goodness will bring you to a deep experience of Godself.

Aware that this is not easy task, the anonymous author suggests something not to be confused with the simple mantra that blunts the mind, but as mere affirmation to focus on intention:

Think only on the God who created you [gave you the opportunity to exist], redeemed you [on the nature of your true Self] and led you to this work. Do not let other ideas about God come into your mind. Even this is too much. It suffices with a gentle impulse towards God, the longing for Him alone. If you want to gather all your desire into one simple word that the mind can easily retain, choose a short word rather than a long one. A one-syllable word such as "God" or "love" is best. But choose one that is meaningful to you. Then fix it in your mind so that it will remain there come what may. This word will be your defence in conflict and in peace. Use it to beat upon the cloud of darkness above you and to subdue all distractions, consigning them to the cloud of forgetting beneath you. Should some thought go on annoying you, demanding to know what you are doing, answer with this one word alone. If your mind begins to intellectualise over the meaning and connotations of this little word, remind yourself that its value lies in its simplicity. Do this and I assure you these thoughts will vanish -Chapter 7

However, the aim is to go beyond words, as pointed out by the anonymous medieval author in his other jewel, The Book of Privy Orientation:

Reject every thought, good or bad. Do not pray with words unless you feel moved to do so; and if you pray with words, do not pay attention to whether these are many or few. No ponder the words and their meaning.

This quiet and darkness fills your mind and you're a reflection of it. For I would have thought you have of yourself is as pure and simple as you have of God. So you can be spiritually united to Him without fragmentation and without dissipation of your mind. He is your being and in Him you are what you are, not only because He is the cause and the essence of everything that exists, but because He is the cause of your existence and deep center of your being. [...] Remember the distinction between you and him: He is your being, but you're not his.

As William Mening points in a clarifying interview [2]:

You do this prayer through, in and with the Body of Christ. It cannot be done as a solitary act.

At the end of another interview [3], William Mening suggests that the human soul that aspires to enter Centering Prayer is like a baby that is with the mother at the foot of a staircase, and right when the baby starts to crawl up to the father up above, the father comes down to pick him up out of compassion. The same happens when a pure intention at the time to meditate, there comes a time that contemplation comes without effort as something superior in charge.

Now, to finish off for this time, it´s worth listening to Thomas Keating on Centering Prayer:

[1] In Spanish:

[2] Clarifying interview of William Mening

[3] Another nice interview with William Mening:

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