We know that all things work for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
-- Romans 8: 28
Father Keating relates a story in which he is frustrated with his prayer life and then envious of what another monk's prayer life seems to be in the monastery. Father Keating finally talks to his abbot about it, “He himself was a man of prayer with great devotion to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, which is usually reserved in the monastic church. And so, he also was very much aware of the purification that begins when you enter a life of strict silence and prayer in which, you know, one’s unconscious motivation begins to emerge into consciousness; if you give it a chance. Well, it not only emerges into consciousness, the dark side of our personality begins to emerge existentially into your feelings. And so, as I was sitting there, feeling this horrible feeling and wishing it would go away, and praying for it to go away, and it just kept getting worse, or it would go away a little while and then come back worse than before.”
Father Keating is envious of another monk who seems to be praying more than he is and enjoying his prayer life more. He claims “He hadn’t done anything wrong. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just minding his own business. It was my problem. You see, God used this other person to reflect back to me what my problem was. The person who gives you the most trouble in this world is the greatest gift that you have from God, if you can continue the spiritual journey. Because there are some dark places in our personality that even prayer or contemplative prayer doesn’t light up. God works on us both from within or from without . . . Everything works together for good for somebody who’s on the spiritual journey, no matter what you think or feel. You’ve got to believe it.”
Father Keating knows it is not easy and at times, very difficult, but continuing on the spiritual journey is always the answer because God is always there for us, no matter what. God gives us “infinite mercy” and Keating asks, “But, my God, what else do you want? If you have that, you don’t need anything else. And when that dawns on you, then the spiritual journey is not going to be put off by any trial whatsoever. Trust emerges with such force in that confrontation -- and it’s trust that leads to perfect love, nothing else, certainly not fear.”
"Transformed in Christ, these blessed souls will live the life of God and not their own life -- although, indeed, it will be their own life because God's life will be theirs ... through a union of love. This is a great blessing. ... As he said in the Song of Songs: 'Put me as a seal upon your heart' (Song of Songs 8: 6). ... The heart signifies the soul in which God dwells in this life as a seal."
-- John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle
Father Keating notes, "The true self is who we really are, that is as a manifestation of God, and is more or less unknown to us, or buried in the unconscious because of the development of our false self and our preoccupations with furthering that development that coincides with the development of the ego and our self-consciousness and reflective capacities. So, the true self is beyond reflection concepts. But beyond the true self, is the ultimate self or the deepest self, which is God, or in the Christian terminology, which is Christ in us. As Paul puts it, “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me”. Keating provides several more examples of this, from Saint Catherine of Genoa and St. John of the Cross.
Father Keating notes that we are aided by God through Centering Prayer to begin to give up and let go of our False Self and we eventually can carry this awareness with us throughout our day. He says “ And, indeed, as time goes on, the Divine Therapist extends the walls of our office, so to speak, our inner room, to the whole of life so that everything becomes a process of purification, of healing and of releasing the empowerment in the unconscious, and in facing more and more the dark side of our personality in the form of self-centeredness, that tends to focus ultimately on over-identification with our roles, our thoughts, feelings, bodies and ultimately, identity. Hence, Jesus says, to be my disciple you must deny your inmost self.”
Keating notes that others help us in this journey. Those who rub us the wrong way are messengers for us. He says “Our enemies or those who rub us the wrong way or something like that are telling us something about ourselves. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.”
He continues “It’s not others who we should look upon as the problem, but as an invitation to look into our own motivation. What is it that’s making this person or this situation so aggravating? And this is to work comprehensively on the therapy that we’re receiving in the inner room.”
Father Keating concludes with “But that to be really real, I have to allow that identity (False Self) to be changed, or left at the disposal of the Divine Will. So that my will, my spiritual will, my choice can be always and totally in union with God’s will, and this is the ultimate effect of transformation. As John of the Cross understands it, transformation is the transformation of our intellect and will into the divine intellect and will. An extraordinary statement that suggests that there’s no movement in us except under the influence of the Holy Spirit and that our actions are more and more emerging from that place of surrender, silence and receptivity that is the full development of the contemplative process moving through various stages, some of which are temporary, to the permanent stage of transforming union that corresponds to true self.”
Suggested Readings are in Open Mind Open Heart, Chapter 7, “Unloading of the Unconscious”