Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Return to Contemplation

I have been at pains to emphasise with specific emphasis on 3, that the odd numbered dimensions represent a certain dislocation with respect to customary contemplative experience.

Clearly there is both an active and passive dimension to experience. So from a balanced perspective, activity should be plentifully fuelled from a spiritual well residing in the unconscious. However equally passivity (in the form of direct contemplation) should be periodically offset through activity. This to an extent then causes a temporary disequilibrium with respect to experience, which is resolved through further contemplation.

Thus properly understood, activity and contemplation are dynamically necessary for each other.

Of course the precise balance that is appropriate will vary considerably from individual to individual.

Some are naturally of a more active nature; others will always be more gifted in a contemplative direction. However it very much part of the successful art of  living to find the balance that is most appropriate for one's own personal circumstances.

This again was one of the significant lacks that I came to recognise in St. John of the Cross's writing where there is very little attempt made in his formal account to address this key important issue.

As I have stated before, though - in the context of the monastic reforms of his order - at one level he did lead an active life, one always gets the impression that it was as a somewhat reluctant participator. This in turn led perhaps  to an unduly negative reaction to the world and its failings, which in the end led to a degree of conflict in his dealings with the Order that was perhaps avoidable.

A Christian mystic - though not as intellectually gifted as St. John - to whom I have been greatly attracted, is the Flemish writer Ruysbroek.

Perhaps due to the fact that he spent many years in active ministry before fully engaging with the contemplative life, there is a healthier balance in his writings especially with respect to the manner in which activity and contemplations mutually serve each other. There is also a surprisingly modern feel to his writings with a great appreciation of the truly dynamic interactive nature of all experience.

However though some his descriptions are truly beautiful (blending cognitive and affective type experience), I would not want to exaggerate his importance as his writings are quite brief and only deal with the various issues in a somewhat general manner.


In my own case I mentioned how I had gradually become aware of a new significant form of attachment of an imaginary - rather than real - active nature.

In other words the attachments that were being increasingly exercised related largely to unconscious projections that became attached to my various activities.

In a general way, whether with respect to social and personal relationships, or the more impersonal work related and intellectual type pursuits, a growing problem arose from the underlying desire for some manifest form of recognition.

In one way this was not surprising as a very lengthy period of deprivation had taken place (during the "dark night") which by its very nature represented  a complete starvation with respect to such recognition.

So now having in a sense been released to a new freedom, such  desires, which in many ways had been repressed during the "dark night" captivity, were slowly reactivated.

However the difficult lesson that I now began to learn was that though outwardly now adapting more successfully to the world, true recognition was never going to be come from such pursuits.

So gradually I began to draw back again from my many outward involvements (and the misguided sense, provided through them, of possible worldly recognition and fulfilment).

In many ways the gradual relinquishing of such hopes represented another form of "active night" which on this occasion was imaginary - rather than real - in nature, relating to the deeper unconscious desire for meaning (indirectly expressed through conscious phenomena).

And after a period of time adjusting, a new phase of contemplative experience was to unfold.

Though this was much less dramatic than before, it was extremely important in terms of the proper clarification of exciting new states and structures that mysteriously began to re-emerge in experience. 

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