I came to Catholicism from a background of Buddhism and Hinduism, but Carmelite spirituality is so much more profound. Are there others that have noticed this as well?
I’m not surprised. Hinduism has the atman (the Self), Buddhism has the anatman (the Not-Self) and Catholicism has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A lot of Catholic spirituality isn’t near as focused on contemplation or interior understanding as Raja Yoga or Shamantha, Vipissana meditations. Only Carmelite mysticism I’ve found so far. That’s why I’m wondering if any others from Hindu, Buddhist backgrounds have noticed this as well?
I’m assuming then that you are not well acquainted with “a lot of Catholic spirituality” as you say, because contemplation is the goal of catholic spiritual practice- it’s true prayer and it’s fullness is the transforming union. It’s naked knowledge and love of God by the human spirit. Perhaps I misunderstand you- Please give us an example of what spiritualities you mean.
I mean St. Teresa’s Interior Castle for example has more clarity on our internal world than Raja Yoga or Buddhist Meditation… I’ve only met a few Catholics that have deep internal experiences consistently! There are most religious or related to religious.
Given your background and high regard for Carmelite spirituality, may I recommend the three books by a former Carmelite nun? After a formidable accomplishment, she decided that her understanding had to be “lived in the marketplace.” She comes to conclusions, makes fine distinctions, and reveals questions and considerations seldom if ever approached in Catholic literature. She even has a remarkable reason why, which places, imho, her in a unique and elevated position amongst Catholic contemplatives. Her name is Bernadette Roberts, and her books are avalable in the usual places, but her site is:
I would seriously caution any faithful Catholic against Bernadette Roberts and her works. Catholics have a long tradition that warns those who reach the illuminative stage which is that of contemplative prayer (2nd stage of interior life, before the third and final stage) against deception and unconscious spiritual pride- Bernadette went off the deep end, for sure! Her claims are fantastic and go against the 2,000 years of Catholic teaching and the wisdom of the Saints. She’s not the first mystic in the church to do so. She claims that she surpassed the highest stage of sanctity (transforming union) (stage three) and then entered a brand new stage that no Catholic saint has entered before! (Which is not even what the Saints in Heaven experience!) where she (Bernadette Roberts) dissolved- Basically, she became God! That is Hinduism or Buddhism or something else- It is NOT Christianity. She claims, based on her experiences, that the Christian Trinity is wrong! :eek: I think she believes that she now gets to teach the “real truth” to the Church, rather than the other way around. Any one looking for authentic Catholic spirituality would do well to keep a safe distance from her and her ideas. Read Catholic Saints instead:
The Desert Fathers and Mothers
St. Teresa of Avila.
St.Catherine of Siena
St. John of the Cross
St. Therese de Lisieux
St. Ignatius of Loyola
etc etc etc
Read these works:
The imitation of Christ by Thomas A kempis
The introduction to the Devout life by St. Francis de Sales
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade
Uniformity with God’s will by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence
Three Ages of the Interior Life, by Fr. Reginald Larrigou-Lagrange
In fact, they are too many to list! Just visit this site here, where they are freely available in ebook version, both to read and download.
The three Ages of the interior life is freely available here:
To the above list you may fearlessly add the following books by Thomas Merton:
- New Seeds of Contemplation &
- Contemplative Prayer
I assure you that NO Catholic Saint or mystic had what you refer to as “deep, internal experiences” consistently either! You have to get an underlying difference between Eastern systems and Christian spiritualities, or you might end up never getting the real meaning of Catholic spirituality.
Eastern systems are all about realizing oneself- Catholicism is purely and 100% Relationship. It’s about two “others” loving and giving to each other. Any authentic Catholic spirituality begins with God as wholly other. He’s not a hidden or unrealized part of ourselves- not at all. That being the case, there is no"system" or technique by which we can get to always predict and control his responses to our actions. He’s a free agent, absolutely so. He responds and gives and withdraws when he wants to, just as we respond to his movements in us as we want. There’s no buttons in God, where we know that if I push button A, his response will be X etc. God is a free agent, and you are too. That’s why Catholic spiritual wisdom rejects any notion of a “technique” by which we can all certainly get to certain spiritual experiences.
Even when we get to contemplation, it’s a very different animal from enlightenment or self-realization. It’s like this: You are an individual with your own experience of yourself. You are not me, and I cannot be you. ONLY you know what it really means to be you in the deepest experiential level, no one else does. Even if I know something of your experience, it’s only by my own experience of myself and the fact of our similarity that I can understand something of your own experience- never by directly experiencing your own subjectivity/individuality/experience can I do so. If you are sad, I understand something of it, simply because I have also been sad myself, not because I can directly tap into your own experience as my own and get that experience for myself. Rather I tap into my own sadness and in that sense, I know something of your own. If you share something-a secret,about what you really think and feel- that is a grace, a gift you give to another. It’s not something that someone can just access on their own through some technique. Same with God.
Continued on next post…
Continued from previous post…
Eastern Spiritualities treat God like he’s the deepest part of us or the fullest expression of us- so to them, deep spirituality is deeply realizing my deepest, fullest self. It’s wholly focused on me or I. In Catholic spirituality, God is one who lives in our deepest centre- but he is not us/me. Being the cause of all, he is immanently present in everything as its ultimate cause, but more so in the human soul.
Above this, grace makes possible in us something that is much more than God’s presence in us as our cause. Through grace, we gain what I referred to as relationship. So we freely give to God ourselves, but he also shares his life with us. That means- his v**ery own life, not the life that belongs to us as spiritual creatures. He gives us the life that is strictly his, shared only between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He gives us himself. It’s an exchange of love- We pour ourselves, he pours himself. It’s a grace.
That means that there are two modes of spirituality with us: The natural one, which is that of realizing God’s “natural” presence in us as cause. And the supernatural one- which is God allowing us, not just to realize his presence within us as the very centre of our centre, but in a greater sense, to penetrate that centre that is him, to enter within God’s self-experience or life! This does not belong to us by nature, because God is himself and we are ourselves. We can realize his presence within us, that does not mean that he must share his own inner life or self-experience with anyone else that is not him:shrug:. Just like you don’t have to share your personal feelings and inner life with anyone, you choose to do it with those with whom you choose to develop intimacy…
Catholic contemplation means that the person is directly experiencing this self-sharing of God within that person’s own spirit. At the beginning, it’s a seedling in us that we call the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. It’s planted there in our souls at Baptism by God the Holy Spirit. These virtues are what unites us with God in our Spirit- They constitute what I call, relationship with God, most especially love. At the beginning, we believe it strictly by faith alone, that God is present in us as Blessed Trinity and in relationship with us. But with more fidelity to God, sacraments and prayer, the life of Grace increases in our souls. The more Grace in us, the greater self-sharing between us and the Blessed Trinity.
When we get to contemplation, we are more living our own lives from within our own spirit not from our sensual parts (usually we live within our sensual parts). Since this self sharing is occurring between spirit and spirit (God’s and ours)- it’s at contemplation that we become directly aware and directly experiencing this grace of God in us that is hallowing and transforming us into love. At this stage (the illuminative way), our initiatives become less and less, and God increases his own initiatives more and more. So the saints speak of greater docility and passivity of the Soul in this stage, and greater activity of the Blessed Trinity on the soul.
At the highest stage possible on Earth, a transforming union takes place, aka spiritual marriage. Per St. Teresa of Avila, the possibility of the Soul turning back no longer exists after this marriage. He has given his entire self, the deepest core, every little tiny bit that is possible to give to God on Earth- Nothing of himself remains unexchanged with God, to any extent that is possible to exchange it on Earth. God is fully Master, King and Husband of that soul in every way. Even the Devils are terrified of a soul that has gone through this and will not come within 10 miles of that soul, never mind try to “tempt” it to sin! In other words, he/she is a Saint. Perfected. A soul that dies after the spiritual marriage is headed straight for heaven with no detours any where ;).
In stages, there are darknesses before the first contemplation begins and after contemplation, before the Spiritual marriage occurs. This means that God withdraws the sense of himself or his presence from the Soul in different but increasing degrees. This is to train a Soul to live as a free Spirit, independent of sensual and tangible experiences and to love god the only way that true love is done- The sheer will alone.To know him the only way possible- Sheer faith alone. To truly believe in him the only way possible- Sheer Hope alone.
So no one can ever claim to enjoy consolations or extraordinary spiritual experiences throughout- NONE! Just read about Mother Teresa’s terrifying 50 year dark night to know this. 50 years of knowing God by blind faith alone, loving him by blind choice to love him alone, believing in him and holding on to him by blind Hope alone without any spiritual delights, or lights to accompany you or assure you that you are not kidding yourself. Mother Teresa is one of the greatest saints in Catholicism, evidenced by this crazy dark night- It’s an indication of the great heights of sanctity that she was called to in Heaven.
Very well said in posts 9 and 10, Marybeloved.
I wouldn’t quite say that Bernadette Roberts has gone off the deep end, but her claims are highly, highly questionable and I definitely wouldn’t consider her a reliable guide. She’s also at times rather uncharitable and self-defensive, which is ironic for someone who claims to have “no self”.
There are better writers available, as others have noted.
I recently ordered Divine Intimacy, so I’m excited to use that daily along with liturgy of the hours.
I have experiences with the Holy Spirit daily, so I don’t really understand what you mean Marybeloved. I’m going through one of the darkest periods of my life: family estrangement, discerning religious life, picking a major, overwhelmed by past sins, my only father figure in life(a once local priest) leaving the parish, etc.
I really hope you don’t go 50 years without a spiritual experience, that would be terrible! I feel like when I haven’t experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit multiple times a day, I’m in dryness of prayer, so maybe I just misunderstand you? I really think Buddhism and Hinduism are a bunch of ****, but I wanted to see what others thought. Of course I’d rather be a ordinary Catholic than the Dalai Lama or Nicht Naht Han, but I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that, regardless of the fact the world portrays the Eastern Religions as mystical, they come no where close to deeper catholic spirituality, using the Carmelites as an example.
Thanks for spending the time laying that all out MaryBeloved, very informative. Where are you drawing the information for the three stages of interior contemplation? I’d love to read up on that more. I’m only aware of the seven mansion explanation.
Something I’d like to ask is do others have strange dreams about Demonic Egyptian forces? Is that something any spiritual writers talk about?
Wow, Marybekoved. That was quite a reaction. I certainly agree that it is “by grace” that anything happens. And I very much agree with most of how you interpret Catholic ideas on what constitutes spiritual life, at least for the most part, and from what appears to me to be the common and public culture of the Church.
So I have a couple of questions for you:
A) Did you read all three of BR’s books? I did. And if you did, from what standpoint (don’t jump to a conclusion here) did you interpret them?
B) Are you an accomplished contemplative who has not only book learning (having at least read, if not practiced all of the titles you recommend) but some mystical and, more importantly, contemplative experience?
I was fascinated by your list of titles, as many of them were ones that BR quoted from and discussed extensively. And I’m sure you know that her method and practice were scrutinized and approved by her superiors when she was in the convent, and that they did not change after she left. They simply bore more fruit, emphasizing their efficacy. She at least has, I’m sure you will agree from your familiarity with her writings, a very incisive mind capable of far finer distinctions and subtleties than average.
After your thorough analysis of her work, being very familiar with it through your own study and reading, have you asked yourself–being equally familiar with Eastern contemplatives and their work, not to mention other Westerners–: “Do I really understand what these people are talking about? Have I had similar experiences, and what conclusions have I drawn from them, and how? And whom did I turn to for advice who was more experience in these matters than I?”
You remind me, in all kindness, and I say this for your increase and edification in the feild of metaphysical navigation, of a couple I met when I was working for a very well known theologian. I was working on the lawn sprinkler system when they came by, and we were talking about the rather beautiful home of my employer. At one point the woman exclaimed “And it is very rare that someone has a chapel in their house!” I was a bit taken aback. There was no such think in all of the extensive area of the structure, or on the grounds. I was baffled and asked “What do you mean, a chapel?” She said “I know there is a chapel in the house.” I asked her “Do you mean the stained glass window that depicts St. Joseph?” She said, “Yes, of course; it’s part of a chapel.” The owner had been gifted with taht piece as a recognition of his work by some friends. It had come from a church that was de-consecrated an under demolition. I explained that to her and assured her that it was just that, hanging in a window of the double staircase that led from the parking entry to the second floor. “Oh, no,” she assured me. “That is a chapel there.” I reminded her that I worked on the property and had intimate knowledge of all the spaces in the house as I was responsible for the structural and maintenance aspects of the property, There is no chapel there, and never was, and I told her so, describing the actual situation, again. “No, you are wrong; that is a chapel.” She said it with great conviction and vehemence. She said it in the face of someone, me, who was in that area several times a day and knew better from experience. She would have none of it, and walked away with her husband, both disgusted with me and muttering as they went away. Similar misconceptions about activities the in house also abounded abounded, because my employer was both a Maestro of great accomplishment, and someone to whom religious of every description came to resolve sometimes even profound impasses. Mother Teresa stayed at his home for a week. and she and her party were loath to leave, my Mentor having opened areas of consideration not thoroughly addressed by any of them.
You also remind me, assuming that you have read her work, of an acquaintance who was an inventor and a genius by any measure. He wanted to jo0in a discussion group dealing with a short but profound book. It was suggested that he read thee book and report on his perception of it. He did so, and was in so many words told: nice try, read it again. Long story shot, and i don’t know where he got the persistence to do this, he read that shot book 26 times. At last he returned and said, OK, I now see I was superimposing my own ideas on the book. I really don’t know what its about, and these really are new ideas for me." He was then admitted to the circle and became a much improved individual by all reports. I thought so after I met him again, anyway.
Anyway, thanks for your deep and sincere interest in this matter.
.There is much written about the various mental assaults presented to practicing mystics. That is not uncommon, and the usual tactic is to ignore them and go on. If you engage them, then you are diverted. Just focus on your love of good and God mightily.
Right on MIc,
The Moral of the story is to read Bernadette Roberts 26 times. I will wait for MaryBeloved to do that and see what happens.
Yeah, right, lol! (Mic smiles to himself about the joys of literalism and has a great laugh, mostly at himself.)
Part of my learning/training in hypnotherapy was to learn past life regression and learning about those that deal with entities…I heard a fellow named Richard Sutphen…found here
speaking about his daily work. His wife is a “medium” and they daily work with people that believe that they are attached to entities. There is a whole field out there. I believe that the best thing to do is stay with Catholic sources, avoid the New Age…I have previously reported on “Jesus Christ the bearer of the Water of Life”…if you enter it into your search engine you can find it. It is a caution about those that are influenced by the New Age.
Thank you for posting. You touch on a major concern of mine. My 23 year old, college student, daughter has become very interested in Vipissana meditation. She has gone to 2 "sits’ one for 10 days in Washington State and another for 30 days in Massachusetts. She is very open to talking about it … I thought it was just a strange way to meet boys… Which she did. …glad when she dumped him!
…but she is serious about it, Vipissana that is … and sees it as a way to clear her head. She has had both positive and negative experiences… one very frightening… she called me immediately and we prayed/talked it through. She was pretty shaken.
I have a very contemplative nature as well and have always encouraged her to meditate … but with the things of God as the focus. Vipissana, as I understand it, focuses on nothing. It seems to me that it can open a person to anything that happens to be present… and the “suggestion” at the instruction sessions during the “sit” is all leaning toward eastern religious thought (Buddhism/ Hinduism)
I listened to a DVD that my daughter gave me … The old guy on the screen looks and acts very benign … But that is the way that all eastern mysticism comes across … at first. Maharishi’s TM seemed harmless when I was in college … I found out differently from personal experience.
What is your take/ experience with the Vipissana technique. Where can/ does it lead the individual? I am very curious to get your input.
I would start with Christianity is an Eastern Religion. Jesus was an Asian Jew. I agree with you about TM as an introduction to Hinduism and Vipissana is Buddhist. I am not sure why people look at these beliefs in their youth. I did. I believe that somehow there is some belief that there is some spirituality that is missing that others have or that there is something mystical that can be had. I really don’t know. I am sure that when someone goes searching at some point they find that all they have to do is click their heels, close their eyes and imagine…there’s no place like home…are we really in Kansas?
People practice Vipassana in many different ways, but generally it’s supposed to mean insight, so it goes beyond mere concentration and a peaceful mind. The actual word translating, I was told, basically as, “to perceive the superior.” The methods I used are actually completely compatible to Christianity, but they don’t go as deep as the Carmelites in my observation in describing the types of internal experiences I was having. I would simply imagine a line of words in my mind or visualize an image of, for example, the stages of meditation. I’d keep returning my mind too the imagined object and ignore all other thoughts until, the set time was over, but the goal was too let something from a “higher plain” of existence reach my mind. It all sounds kind of silly talking about it now, but at one time it was very important to me. I now mainly meditate on Christian things, although I will contemplate words of people outside of Christianity. Basho’s words recently, “Do not follow in the footsteps of old-men. Seek what they sought.”
Vipassana is neutral really, since it is clear that semantically speaking, all Christians are experiencing this, if they have a spiritual experience. It all depends how you use it, but I really don’t think the best way to spend our time is doing “nothing.” Has she ever repeated a prayer, hiked and observed nature, or done Eucharistic adoration and felt her mundane thoughts being cleared away? I’d recommend those activities instead.(I’m 22 and in college as well. Don’t happen to be from Ohio do you? ;)
I will definitely check out Bernadette Roberts and the stuff you mentioned CopticChristian.