Journey through Darkness

Christian mysticism is born of a theological crisis. This theological crisis is precipitated by the very nature of faith. For faith, which is at the heart of contemplation, makes use of concepts and yet transcends them.
-Thomas Merton (The Ascent to Truth, p.107)

The mind can only be kept one- pointed in faith; and faith, without presuming to know the true nature of reality, is itself, darkness. Of course, it believes in certain concepts, but these only out of necessity. The contemplative aspirant seeks a veiled path, a journey through darkness sustained only by faith and illuminated only by reason. Essential to contemplation is meditation, and it is perilous to impose expectations on the experience of its practice. In doing so, the aspirant will strive to encounter his expectations (which are imaginary) rather than seek to be illumined by the truth (which is unknown). Expectations are biased and diminutive, but pure faith (composed of trust) allows for the most profound sort of transformation.

A man of faith will seek illumination by relegating the influence of his own biased intellect. We must remember, though intellect is the vehicle of reason, it is not reason itself; and the humble action that darkens the intellect with regard to spiritual reality is an act of reason. Reason recognizes the truncating limitations of the intellect and seeks a vital experience of reality beyond the intellect’s ability to comprehend. The more one can surrender the intellect (I do not mean abstain from its use), the more one- pointed the mind can be made. Pride of intellect always assumes it can structure knowledge into belief that is objective. Faith comprehends the folly of such thinking.

As one begins to understand the diminutive nature of his own mind and the sheer probability of error in personal reasoning, he cannot but have faith (unless he opts for madness). If he places ultimate truth within the reach of his own personal conceptions, his mind will never be one- pointed; for these conceptions about reality will shift day-by-day, being at the mercy of many forces (and reason isn’t one of them). Take note, I do not mean to say that we should replace personal conceptions of ultimate truth with doctrinal ones (though scripture is here for our benefit); rather, we must affirm that truth transcends the very realm of conceptions. The intellectual paradox here (and paradox for the intellect only) is that truth can still be gotten- at. Once the assumptions of the intellect are darkened through faith (and humility), the mind can be made one- pointed, directed at a destination neither perceived nor understood, but always groped for in darkness.

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