Tuesday 17 March 2020

How I do Christian meditation

This is not a cook-book method; indeed I agree with William Arkle that the essence of our mortal situation is that God wants us to work out as much as possible for ourselves. That's the best way to learn. But help is always available for anybody, when necessary.

A commenter asked me for references I could recommend on Christian meditation. I know of none. What I do know, I worked out for myself, collating bits and pieces from many sources. It may not be helpful for other people.

My usual pattern is as follows:

1. Self-remembering. I come to my senses, wake-up and realise that this is Me, Here, Now.

2. I instantly move this into a recognition that the whole world around me is alive and conscious and purposive - and by 'whole world' I mean not only animals, but also plants and minerals. This is a return to Original Participation, to the animism of young children and hunter-gatherers.

3. Then - again as soon as the above state has impinged - I consider Jesus Christ; that he is everywhere and right here with me, now (in the spirit form known as the Holy Ghost). I experience Jesus as a present person.

(...As a present person and Not as an abstraction, force, vibration or the like. And as a separate person from my-self in a loving relationship - Not as a light or ocean into which I aspire to diffuse or melt. The experience is of two-ness, Not one-ness.)

Now, that is as far as I can usually take my Christian meditation - it is a passive state of realisation; a wakening up to how things actually are. It can happen several or many times a day - if I am in a good frame of mind; but never when my frame of mind is wrong: busy, selfish, sinful - including fearful or despairing.

But it is Very Brief, happening in a matter of seconds.

I regard it as an error for Christians to expect or to aim-at sustained states of meditation. God wants us to learn from the (many) experiences of our mortal lives - he arranges our lives to make this possible; and to remain for long periods rapt in a chronic meditative trance is clearly not what God  wants from us. That is why sustained trance-like meditation is not spontaneous, and so difficult.

(At least, God does not want this, as a generalisation - there will no doubt be exceptions for specific people in specific circumstances; since each life is bespoke-tailored for our unique personal needs.)

Sometimes I find it possible to go beyond the above brief and contemplative meditation into a broader or more active state. Broader when - instead of Jesus as the Holy Ghost - I become aware of God - my Heavenly Parents - Father or Mother.

...Or become aware of one of the so-called-'dead' such as a beloved relative; or even someone I never knew but whom I genuinely love from their works (like JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield, William Arkle). Or aware of the personified the spirit of a place or people.

In a nutshell, become aware of another specific Being.

The key is 'motivation': the state of love. When I am in a state of love and remain conscious and purposive and make the necessary decision - then it is not just possible but it happens naturally to go beyond passive contemplation and actively to participate in the ongoing work of Creation.

This is the state of Final Participation.  This may briefly happen during acts of earthly creation when that creation is motivated by love (including love of truth or beauty) - during writing, perhaps. It may happen in a conversation, or being-with another person. It can be described sometimes as inspiration, sometimes as an intuition.

And it comes as a direct-knowing; my mind, my thinking, comes into-line with divine creation (for a moment); so that my thinking is also the thinking of creation: my thinking is objectively real and permanent.

I can personally add a little to the harmony of ongoing creation.

Such are my Christian meditations. They are fairly frequent, but happen only when properly-motivated, consciously-chosen; and only briefly.

But - as you may imagine - they are of primary importance to this, my mortal life.

Note added: In principle, and given that Christians are now 'on their own' (for good or evil - but in an ultimate sense it is for uour own good), some kind of meditation becomes a necessity. As institutions, rituals and symbols lose their effect, are corrupted or withdrawn; what is needed is direct and personal experience of 'the divine' - and for Christians the most relevant divine is, of course, Jesus Christ. What about prayer? Necessary - but on its own, insufficient.  


ted said...

I really enjoyed that piece. It's a nice offering Bruce!

Sean G. said...

Beautiful and immediately helpful insight. Is this practiced "in motion" during the course of the day, or exclusive to quieter moments?

Bruce Charlton said...

@sean - Whenever I think about it I try; but it mostly *works* in quieter moments.