An ego-transcendent state

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Letter Eleven,” WEB OF SILENCE (London: Darton, Longman, Todd, 1996), pp. 116-118.

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Letter Eleven,” WEB OF SILENCE
(London: Darton, Longman, Todd, 1996), pp. 116-118.

 “I live no longer but Christ lives in me.” Is St Paul who describes this trans-personal, ego-transcendent state a Buddhist or a pantheist? Who was the I who lived no longer? Who is the me in whom only Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God, lives? These are important, endless questions. But their importance only takes effect after the event. In the duration of the simple state of union these questions, like all thoughts, are consumed
by the sheer presence of the “One who truly is.” We return to the ordinary reality and remember the last thought we had before the experience happened—our thirst, our bank overdraft, the troubles our children are facing. Before long we are engrossed in our familiar thought-worlds. God becomes a goal we are trying to achieve or understand, or a memory we feel nostalgic for, rather than the I AM of love who floods our inmost being.

The early Christian monks well understood these passing states of the spiritual life. Cassian wrote of the “lethal sleep’ of prayer when the mind enjoys a lulled activity and dulled feelings. It is a form of the “Gethsemani sleep” of the apostles. Cassian also described the “pernicious peace,” a strong phrase referring to the emotional and mental calm we try to cling to as soon as we become aware of it. None of these states, of ecstasy,
sleep or consolation, are the goal of prayer. However attractive they may be, or painful their loss, there is another goal. A condition of complete simplicity requiring not less than everything, as Dame Julian put it.

Poverty of spirit, purity of heart. The combined state of the Beatitudes. Life in Christ. [I]t is the state where the mind is merged with the heart, not just for a few timeless moments but permanently and unwaveringly. Like a candle burning in a windless space. Like the man who built his house on the rock of the true Self rather than on the sands of the ego.

After meditation: W.S. Merwin, “To Myself,” PRESENT COMPANY (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005) p. 132. 

To Myself

Even I forget you
I go on looking for you
I believe I would know you
I keep remembering you
sometimes long ago but then
other times I am sure you
were here a moment before
and the air is still alive
around where you were and I
think then I can recognize
you who are always the same
who pretend to be time but
you are not time and who speak
in the words but you are not
what they say you who are not
lost when I do not find you 

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