Be You East or West

Jeremy Johnson, who writes for Single Eye Movement and curates the Evolutionary Landscapes site, posted a wonderful reflection on the practice of contemplation.

In the Western world this tradition has been pushed to the background of our spiritual heritage due to misunderstanding the practice and charges of heresy. In the late Medieval period and into the Renaissance, these practices were assigned the term Quietism and labeled as part of the Gnostic heresy. In more contemporary times literalist groups claim that the practice of contemplation “leaves the doors open to satanic influences” and are very suspicious of any mention of meditation or contemplation.

It is surprising then to find that the authorities in all branches of the Christian Tradition, Catholocism, Orthodox and Protestant, have been well versed in the contemplative practice. In Catholicism many of the most revered saints, such as Therese of Avila, were deeply engaged in this practice, the Philokalia which collects the writings of the early church fathers, and forms a core authoritative text for the Orthodox tradition, is, as a whole, an exposition on Divine contemplation, and the writings from the founders of the various Protestant sects are also fully engaged with the practice.

Jeremy’s examination is an excellent introduction which shows how true contemplation moves beyond these charges of Quietism and demonic influence and provides a very active connection to a higher reality that is so necessary in these trying times.

This was written on the Evolutionary Landscape’s twitter: Contemplative practice is not being silent for the sake of a quiet mind. It is seeing through, like a dart piecing beyond the veil. Gnosis is the “spiritual intellect.” A knowing, a being-in-truth. It’s important to remember this is at the heart of contemplation. Be you East or West in tradition, contemplation brings one to the edge of human perception and in contact with the Eternal. Many … Read More

via mystical inklings

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3 responses to “Be You East or West

  1. Excellently put. Without this practice, precious little progress would be made in the realm of human thought and comprehension.

  2. Hey David,

    I wanted to thank you for sharing this piece on your blog! One of my favorite pieces (from the little bit I know) of Western contemplative practice is a tiny book by an unknown author, The Cloud of Unknowing (how appropriate). The translation I have in mind is by Fr. William Johnston. He provides an excellent analysis in the introduction, relating contemplative prayer to Eastern traditions and emphasizing its universality.

    I think it’s interesting that in the modern west, contemplation is fringe subject, only now we have scientists taking the role of the priest, with a few organizations interested in crossing the boundaries between mysticism and phenomenonal reality (Like Alan Wallace, etc). Perhaps modern contemplative educational programs/studies might help re-kindle an interesting in the interior depths. Who knows!

    • No problem Jeremy,

      It helped me rethink my preconceptions of contemplative practice in terms of activity. An active stillness, a potent nothing, very powerful seeds.

      Love and devotion, reverence, these keys make it difficult for me to believe that our current secular scientism will be able to come to the heart of contemplation. Not that it wouldn’t be possible, but I see a lot of slick websites and crisply pressed collars, fine words, but little true humility. That ever nagging question “why have you come?” begins the initiation into any Mystery Tradition, I wonder what the heartfelt answer is for many of these folks.

      Secondovius, in his New Chemical Light, lays it out fairly succinctly: Simplicity is the Seal of Truth

      and continues with:

      “Our longing for an increase of knowledge urges us ever onward towards some final goal, in which we imagine that we shall find full rest and satisfaction, like the ant which is not endowed with wings till the last days of its life. In our time, the Philosophical Art has become a very subtle matter; it is the craft of the goldsmith compared with that of the humble workman who exercises his calling at the forge. We have made such mighty strides in advance that if the ancient Masters of our science, Hermes and Geber and Raymond Lullius, were to rise from the dead, they would be treated by our modern Alchemists not as Sages but as only humble learners. They would seem very poor scholars in our modern lore of futile distillations, circulations, calcinations and in all the other countless operations wherewith modern research has so famously enriched our Art though without understanding the sense of the ancient writings. In all these respects, our learning is vastly superior to theirs. Only one thing is unfortunately wanting to us which they possessed, namely, the knack they had of actually preparing the Philosopher’s Stone. Perhaps, then, their simple methods were after all the best; and it is on this supposition that I desire, in this volume, to teach you to understand Nature so that our vain imaginations may not misdirect us in the true and simple way. Nature then, is one, true, simple, self-contained, created by God and informed with a certain universal spirit.”

      and

      “If you ask who I am: I am a Cosmopolitan. If you know me, and wish to be good and honourable men, keep my name a secret. If you do not know me forbear to enquire after my name, for I shall make public nothing more than appears in this writing. Believe me, if my rank and station were not what they are, I should enjoy nothing so much as a solitary life, or to have joined Diogenes in his tub. For I behold this world full of vanity, greed, cruelty, venality, and iniquity; and I rejoice in the prospect of the glorious life to come. I no longer wonder, as once I did, that the true Sage, though he owns the Stone, does not care to prolong his life; for he daily sees heaven before his eyes, as you see your face in a glass. When God gives you what you desire, you will believe me, and not make yourself known to the world.”

      I also wonder if science adequately prepares one for meeting Nature face to face.

      Giordano Bruno in from his Gli Eroici Furori (The Heroic Furies)

      “Aristotle boasts of being able to arrive at the desired booty by means of the imprints of tracks and vestiges, while he believes the effects will lead to the cause, although he, above all others who have occupied themselves with this sort of chase, has most deviated from the path, so as to be able hardly to distinguish the footsteps.

      Theologians there are, who, nourished in certain sects, seek the truth of nature in all her specific natural forms in which they see the eternal essence, the specific substantial perpetnator of the eternal generation and mutation of things, which are called after their founders and builders and above them all presides the form of forms,* the fountain of light, very truth of very truth, God of gods, through whom all is full of divinity, truth, entity, goodness.

      This truth is sought as a thing inaccessible, as an object not to be objectized, incomprehensible. But yet, to no one does it seem possible to see the sun, the universal Apollo, the absolute light through supreme and most excellent species; but only its shadow, its Diana, the world, the universe, nature, which is in things, tight which is in the opacity of matter, that is to say. so far as it shines in darkness.

      Many then wander amongst the aforesaid paths of this deserted wood, very few are those who find the fountain of Diana. Many are content to hunt for wild beasts and things less elevated, and the greater number do not understand why, having spread their nets to the wind, they find their hands full of flies. Rare, I say, are the Actaeons to whom fate has granted the power of contemplating the nude Diana…”

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