The contemplative mind is the most absolute assault on the secular worldview that one can have, because it is a different mind from what we’ve been taught in our time. The calculative mind, or the egocentric mind, reads everything in terms of personal advantage and personal preferences. As long as we read reality from that small self with a narrow and calculating mind, I don’t think we’re going to see things in any new or truly helpful way…
Paul uses a wonderful and telling phrase: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). It is a radically different sense of self that he is trying to describe. Until I have come to that realization myself, I have not been transformed, spiritually speaking.
Contemplative prayer draws us to our True Self, who we are “hidden with Christ in God” as Paul says in Colossians 3:3. This is the only self that actually exists. We came forth from God and our deepest DNA is divine. We are not human beings trying to become spiritual; we are already spiritual beings and the profound question is always, “What does it mean to be human?” I believe that is why Jesus came as a human being and consistently called himself a “son of man” more than the Son of God.
Paul said, “…for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, my italics) and Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) That is what our age finds so intolerable. As CS Lewis pointed out somewhere, death is the ultimate obscenity for our age—we are quite happy with any amount of sexual exploitation or financial cupidity, but we don’t want to talk about death. Oh, we’ll talk about dying, even about assisted dying, about the “right to die” happily enough—but death, death itself… nooo, TMI! It’s the threat of the extinction of the self, the final denial of all those desires we are told we deserve to have fulfilled, that we can’t cope with. No wonder we don’t want to know.
Jesus went on to say, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) Only the way of the Cross leads on to life, “[f]or the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)