As we continued to open up Chapter 1, What is Contemplation, we settled in on the "I AM" experience. Several people shared how being immersed in nature allowed folks to "just be" in the moment. It was also mentioned how Silence was a wonderful way to experience the simplicity of being.
One focus of our Chapter reflections were on the notion of saints "not judging sin because they do not know sin, they know the mercy of God." We discussed that saints are fully human and as such they "sin" (or miss the mark). So, although these folks experience "sin", they open themselves to experience God's merciful forgiveness. As such they focus on expressing that forgiveness to themselves and therefore to others.
We spent time on the discussion of the false self which is the first time this concept has been introduced in this program. Both the false self and the True Self will reoccur in future chapters and we will surely revisit it in future discussions. In tonight's session we discussed the false self, also called our private or separate self, as the thing that causes us to excessively focus on ourselves as the center of the universe and that aspect of ourselves which "alienates ourselves from reality and from God. It is then the false self that is a god of our own making.
One member of our group spoke about Fr. Thomas Keating, one of the founders of the modern Christian Contemplation method of Centering Prayer. Fr. Keating relates the false self to unmet psychological needs in this way: "The False Self system is deeply ingrained in our unconscious. Our emotional programs for happiness formed in early childhood and fossilized into energy centers as a source of motivation for our thoughts, feelings, reactions and behavior, manifest themselves at every level of our human functioning. They manifest themselves in desires for the symbols of whatever our particular emotional program is, as crystallized in our culture".
The following video provides a brief overview of Fr. Keatings ideas of the false self as a result of the Human Condition:
I have recently become aware of Michael Brown, who similarly relates our behaviors to the effects of what underlies the false self. I think this is an interesting view of how he believes our experience of Love (i.e. God) is impacted by the emotional constructs of the false self:
Folks shared the following chapter excerpts as those that touched them most deeply regarding the distortions caused by the false self:
The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison for our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.
In all created things we, who do not yet perfectly love God, can find something that reflects the fulfillment of heaven and something that reflects the anguish of hell... The fulfillment we find in creatures belong to the reality of the created being, a reality that is from God and belongs to God and reflects God. The anguish we find in them belongs to the disorder of our desire which looks for a greater reality in the object of our desire than is actually there; a greater fulfillment than any created thing is capable of giving.
People were also touched by Merton's insight that "the marriage of body and soul in one person is one of the things that makes man the image of God."