Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Human Condition

The contemplative journey, because it involves the purification of the unconscious, is not a magic carpet to bliss. It is an exercise of letting go of the false self, a humbling process, because it is the only self we know. God approaches us from many different perspectives: illness, misfortune, bankruptcy, divorce proceedings, rejection, inner trials. God has not promised to take away our trial, but to help us to change our attitudes toward them. That is what holiness really is. In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude toward reality.

One of the most common objections to the story-book conception of God is the often-heard, "If evil exists, then God must be evil, or incompetent, or else non-existent." I am not going to attempt to rehash all the many and complex arguments of theodicy; they don't convince anyone, anyway. Keating's comment speaks to my own experience precisely. 

Contemplative faith is, as the Quakers say, an experiential faith (see Quaker faith  & practice 19.02) - explanations and arguments appropriate to the rational, discursive mind so often skip over the surface of our deep selves, over the waves of grief and longing, the currents of desire, like stones over the sea; it is only when they have worn themselves out with bouncing that they will sink out of sight. 

It was Karl Rahner who wrote, "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all." I have written of this before, often enough, but it bears repeating: the human condition is contemplative (whatever name you choose for that) or it has nothing whatever to say to the "fathomless ocean of pain" we are born into. Only love, the love that bore the Cross, can plumb that ocean's depth.

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