We strive for union with the divine, however we may perceive the divine. Yet how do we achieve this union?
Both the Albuquerque and Edgewood centering prayer groups ponder and meditate on this question, the Albuquerque group in their study of Thomas Keating and the Edgewood group in their study of Thomas Merton.
Thomas Keating, in Intimacy with God, says that, before we can be united with the divine, we must first empty the junk in our unconscious. He refers to this as “the emotional damage that has been done to us from the moment we were conceived until now.” Note that the emphasis here is not on how awful we may think we are, but on a lifetime’s accretion of harm done to us. 1
Keating affirms that as we proceed through this purification, facilitated by a trust and honesty between oneself and God, “the true self can begin to motivate us rather than the false self, with its excessive demands and hidden agendas.” 2
Similarly, Thomas Merton, in Zen and the Birds of Appetite, speaks of the alienation between our “earthly self” and the “inmost ground of our identity.” When we lose our “separate” self, we discover that even it does not exist apart from the ground of our being. 3
Both Oriental religions and Christian mysticism stress the relativity of the “self-aware subject,” that is, the normal self, and the ultimate “consciousness of Being,” or the “Single Center of all beings.” Yet Merton states “. . . underlying the subjective experience of the individual self there is an immediate experience of Being.” 4
So then, according to Merton, is it possible for the normal self to encounter the consciousness of Being? Yes, for the center of even the normal self is God, who is also the center of all. The self encounters “the other with whom it is already united. . .” 4
For both Thomases, union with the divine is not just possible; divine union is the return path to our true being. Thomas Keating stresses the path of purification, deep listening to scripture, and contemplation. Thomas Merton addresses the experienced intuition of Being: an openness that is a “gift,” lost but which may be recovered, because it can be found within the roots of our being. 5
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If you are interested in attending a centering prayer group in Albuquerque or Edgewood, please call (505) 281-7542.
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1 Intimacy with God, Thomas Keating, A Crossroad Book, Snowmass, Colorado, 2009, pages 99. 100
2 Intimacy with God, Thomas Keating, A Crossroad Book, Snowmass, Colorado, 2009, page 100
3 Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Thomas Merton, A New Directions Book, The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc., 1968, page 12
4 Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Thomas Merton, A New Directions Book, The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc., 1968, pages 23, 24
5 Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Thomas Merton, A New Directions Book, The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc., 1968, page 25
To read the previous articles on these centering prayer group discussions, please begin here: http://www.examiner.com/spirituality-in-albuquerque/centering-prayer-albuquerque-and-edgewood , and http://www.examiner.com/spirituality-in-albuquerque/centering-prayer-albuquerque-and-edgewood-ii .