• Maggie Winfrey

Where Do We Go from Here: Insights from Our Wisdom Panel With Merton and Keating’s Roadmap



Only the shaping of authentic true inner human identity can enable people to lift their heads above the catastrophic materialism and greed of the last two centuries to offer them the hope of something real and true.

Last July 16th Our wisdom teachers Ed Bacon, Vernon Dixon, Victor Kramer, and David Rensberger (as pictured above) unveiled their personal perspectives of Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating’s roadmap for our spiritual journey. Paul Reeves complemented their words with his original musical compositions “Last Man Standing” and “Breathe into Who You Already Are.” Their insights revealed common threads collated here.


Today’s Christianity and society are fractured like Thomas Merton’s description of “a body of broken bones” [1]. America’s states are disunited. Christianity no longer dominates the western world of shaping its cultural or moral tone. We can no longer rely on individualistic answers, rituals, or inspired word to heal our society. A deeply felt need for closeness with God in definite personal ways is now emerging.


Only the shaping of authentic true inner human identity can enable people to lift their heads above the catastrophic materialism and greed of the last two centuries to offer them the hope of something real and true. Contemplative prayer is the new way begun in the 20th century moving us beyond by practicing trust in silence, moving to inner experience instead of dogma and behavior constraints.


Discovering our true self is our salvation. There’s a word uttered in each of us as a part, a thought, of God’s self that is the center point of our creation, our true self. [2] When we are true to that concept, we are saved. The discovery of our true self is actually God’s discovery of us giving us a new being and new mind in which we discover God. “We become contemplatives when we experience contact with God and pass into infinite reality were we awaken as our true self. God lives in me not only as my creator but as my true self.” [3]


Thomas Merton’s Louisville Epiphany showed how contemplation enabled him to break from an illusion of separateness to embracing everyone as beloved brothers and sisters. [4]. Our roadmap is the contemplative discovery of the true self, which is salvation. The way to get there from here is the contemplative transformation of our lives into oneing.


For those of us who met and spent time with him, we could see the divine presence in Thomas Keating, whom we could trust to show us how to become transformed through Centering Prayer. He taught this simple method where allowing thoughts to come and go is integral to the experience. Without judging the session but resting instead in the eternal enables the complete destruction of our selfishness. His teaching about our universal human state of frailty attached to false programs for happiness guides us to let go of our emotional triggers. That leads us to know our true self, the divine spark of God, where we are inherently good. If we are persistent, change comes gradually. We rest in God, not just reading and learning where our mind separates us from God. We’ve got to do it, experience it, and live it.

God is all loving, always drawing us to the one divine center where the one truth is Love. The dream of separation from others is not the life of the temple of contemplation. By centering ourselves we shatter separation and become more in union with mystery.


In addition to finding our true self through contemplation, we find our union with God and the whole human race. It is all about Love that flows among us. Merton explains, “My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine we are not. So what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be, is what we are. [5]


Detached from the world’s value systems, expanding to include everyone in conscious contact with the deep ground of freedom and love, we will discover the precious, sacred gift of each other each moment as we surrender now, now, now.

Mystical contemplation does not release us from participation in the human race, but intensifies it because of our inner contemplative encounter with the incarnate Christ. Merton tells us, “If we were not simply better or worse humans, we could not be God’s children. God’s son became human in order that our hearts and his heart should love God with one human love.” and “The love of the human heart can become God’s love, and my human tears can fall from my eyes as the tears of God…so our love of other people becomes pure and strong. [6]


Julian of Norwich confirms, “The love of God creates in us such a onening that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person,” and “In the sight of God all humans are oned, and one person is all people and all people are in one person.” [7] If we want to bring together what is divided…we must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transform them in Christ.” [8]


Our spiritual journey roadmap to the future will first be grounded in mysticism to allow us to bear fruit or we will not exist at all [9]. Our counter-cultural community will be based on contemplative practice to achieve union with God (orthopraxy), not belief (orthodoxy). Thus we become a communion where we are “not setting views in opposition to each other but unifying them in an insight of complementarity.” [10]


We begin again and again each time we fall, heeding Benedict’s advice in his Rule written for beginners. Detached from the world’s value systems, expanding to include everyone in conscious contact with the deep ground of freedom and love, we will discover the precious, sacred gift of each other each moment as we surrender now, now, now.


Watch the full program here on our YouTube channel.

 


[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, New York: New Directions Books, 70

[2] Ibid, 37

[3] Ibid, 40

[4] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Crown Publishing, 1965, 153-154

[5] Thomas Merton, The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton (New Directions: 1975, 51

[6] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1956, 128-130

[7] Julian of Norwich, Showings, 65, 51

[8] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Crown Publishing, 1965, 21

[9] Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, XX, 149).

[10] Thomas Merton, “Final Integration: Towards a Monastic Therapy” Merton and Sufism, The Untold Story, 267

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