In each, as each, for each
Actively practicing what God is
is what God is
Moving with and through
Each emerging loving itself
As no other realizing itself
“Man without mysticism is a monster” (attributed to poet John Neihardt in Alan Altany article below. Although, after research, the quote traces back to Whittaker Chambers in his 1952 book “Witness”)The sacred center is missing.
Pilgrim of No-thingness, Emptiness, Darkness and Compassion
Darkness was one of Merton's favorite ways of describing contemplation or mysticism. This is connected with his interest in apophatic theology as found in such people as Gregory of Nyssa, Pseudo-Dionysius, the Victorines, Meister Eckhart, John Ruysbroeck, the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing and John of the Cross. Aquinas has said that mysticism is the knowledge of God through experience and Merton increasingly sought to express that knowledge by an "unknowing" which claims that God cannot be understood by conceptualization and reason alone, but must be experienced directly in the "darkness" and "emptiness" and "desert" where no words or images can contain the Other or God. Merton was not a technical theologian and was more "at home with the metaphorical language of darkness and emptiness than with complex reasoning.” (41) His appropriation of the apophatic tradition in Christian mysticism was a "waiting upon God in darkness" (42) that served to prepare the ground for his deep involvement with Zen Buddhism in the late 1950s and the 1960s. He found Zen's indictment of ego-centered thought as resonating well with the Christian apophatic approach.
The via negativa opened Merton to writing poetry that could include material from his dreams, unconscious, surface consciousness, intuition, imagination in ways not limited by discursive logic. He sought for a way to express the inexpressible, as he would try to do all his life. In fact one of the difficulties he had was a tendency to over-conceptualize what he says cannot be conceived. That is what made him a silent monk of many words. Yet it was this apophatic influence that expanded his embrace of the world and his contact with atheists and people from other religions. It became clear to him that the truest way to understand another's deepest beliefs was not through academic analysis, but personal contact and dialogue. It was this trait in Merton for meeting others on their own ground that helped him become more catholic while remaining rooted in the Catholic tradition. His dialectics of the sacred relied deeply upon the apophatic view that God is not a being among other beings, but is "No-thing," or as the Hindu would say, neti neti ("not this nor that"). As a poet of the sacred, Merton could agree with his spiritual mentor, John of the Cross, that God's presence in the mystic is todo y nada ("everything and nothing"). The American poet, John Neihardt, said that man without mysticism is a monster, while Aldous Huxley thought that the mystics "are a channel through which a little knowledge of reality filters down to our human universe of ignorance and illusion. A totally unmystical world would be a world totally blind and insane.”(43) Merton believed all Christians had a vocation to be contemplative to some degree, that is, they were to know God by experience which "is a foretaste of the vision of God in eternity" (44) that "gives the recipient the power to serve the others who are in the Christian community" (45) and the world. As a deeply traditional man, Merton felt that the failure of Christians to know about their mystical heritage was an opening for the idols of technological reductionism and scientism to minimalize the human perspective and deny a human destiny of spiritual life. He even wrote that "the spiritual anguish of man has no cure but mysticism," (46) meaning that since humans are made in the image and likeness of God "it is a spiritual disaster for a man to rest content with his exterior identity" and deny the "dynamic tendency that carries us toward union with God"... since "we find ourselves to be most truly human when we are raised to the level of the divine." (47) (--from, Thomas Merton: The Rediscovered Geography of an American Mystic. by Alan Altany) http://www.thomasmertonsociety.org/altany.htm
The Climate of Monastic Prayer viewed emptiness as a positive condition in which the self “no longer knows itself apart from God.” (--from What is Contemplation, by Thomas Merton, p.104) quoted from The Journal of Religion, (“A Dark and Empty Way: Thomas Merton and the Apophatic Tradition” by John F. Teahan, Volume 58, Number 3 | Jul., 1978)
In Walker’s final articulation of the Sioux Creation account, when the first-created, four natural powers (Rock, Earth, Waters, and Sky) came into being, they “assumed shape, [and] they said a voice spoke saying, ‘I am the source of energy. I am Skan.’” Skan, Sky, is superior to all (Walker, 1983, pp. 207-8). The four superior powers of Rock, Earth, Waters, and Sky are recognized as one; Skan, at first known only as Sky, now is known as the superior underlying invisible force or energy that is the final arbiter of all things. Skan as energy is the underlying or most fundamental aspect of the oneness of everything. Skan then goes on to create the associate powers of Moon, Passion, Wind, Thunderstorm, and other entitles including the buffalo people, growing things, birds and beasts and all that exists, to all of which Skan imparts vitality, or energy, or spirit. Each is wakan (mysterious or sacred; possessing power).
Skan is the most fundamental aspect of Wakan Tanka, the Great Mysterious; Skan is the invisible, intelligent and aware energy underlying all the visible creation, an energy to be regarded with the respect accorded to a “Thou” rather than manipulated as a tool-like “It.” All these aspects, whether visible material entitles or underlying, fundamental, invisible energy, must, I suggest, be understood to be aspects of one unified system, Wakan Tanka. A modern way to put this might be to say that macroscopically discrete, visible, material entitles can be construed as the aspect under which human beings see and relate to what, on the physicist’s analysis, are more fundamentally and “really” knowable under the aspect of sub-macroscopic energy process, and all of this can be conceptualized as a unified system with a telos (purpose of its own) that must be respected. But on the Native American view, though not on the usual physicist’s view, this energy is also (nonanthropomorphic) intelligence and awareness. Spirit, imparted by Skan to all that exists, seems in the Creation myth—as I read it to mean vital energy—as having in some sense the attributes of life though not in an anthropomorphic sense. In other words, it is orenda. The natural entitles and creatures are bearers of spirit-as- vital-energy, and are “personal” forces of nature, or person-like “Thous.”
(--from, The Mystical Chorus: Jung and the religious dimension by Broadribb, Donald (Donald Richard), 1933- with Holly, Marilyn and Lyons, Norma (Norma E.), First published in 1995)
24 DESCHOOLING SOCIETY
The major obstacle on the way to a society that truly educates was well defined by a black friend of mine in Chicago, who told me that our imagination was "all schooled up." We permit the state to ascertain the universal educational deficiencies of its citizens and establish one specialized agency to treat them. We thus share in the delusion that we can distinguish between what is necessary education for others and what is not, just as former generations established laws which defined what was sacred and what was profane.
Durkheim recognized that this ability to divide social reality into two realms was the very essence of formal religion. There are, he reasoned, religions without the supernatural and without gods, but none which does not subdivide the world into things and persons that are sacred and others that as a consequence are profane. Durkheim's insight can be applied to the sociology of education, for school is radically divisive in a similar way.
The very existence of obligatory schools divides any society into two realms: some time spans and processes and treatments and professions are "academic" or "pedagogic," and others are not. The power of school thus to divide social reality has no boundaries: education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational.
Since Bonhoeffer contemporary theologians have pointed to the confusions now reigning between the Biblical message and institutionalized religion. They point to the experience that Christian freedom and faith usually gain from secularization. Inevitably their statements sound blasphemous to many churchmen. Unquestionably, the educational process will gain from the deschooling of society even though this demand sounds to many schoolmen like treason to the enlightenment. But it is enlightenment itself that is now being snuffed out in the schools.
The secularization of the Christian faith depends on the dedication to it on the part of Christians rooted in the Church. In much the same way, the deschooling of education depends on the leadership of those brought up in the schools. Their curriculum cannot serve them as an alibi for the task: each of us remains responsible for what has been made of him, even though he may be able to do no more than accept this responsibility and serve as a warning to others.
(--from, ”Deschooling Society” Ivan Illich Originally published in 1970. New York: Harper and Row. 1996. London: Marion Boyars , Why We Must Disestablish School) http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/chap1.html
This time in our culture is a warning.