(Winston Press: 1985)
One of the things I love about Emerging ways of being:doing is the discovery of ancient treasures. Whilst a book from 1985 might not fairly be called ‘ancient’, Sebastian Moore operates firmly from a pre-modern Benediction tradition which brings me life and peace. As you may guess from the title, he draws on insights from psychology as well as theology and the contemplative prayer tradition. I’ve forgotten why my spiritual director suggested I read this book, but I will never forget the benefit I gained from it.
Contemplative prayer, for me, has been a way of finding security and stillness in my inmost being. S.M. has provided me with an intellectual framework which explains what happens as I know myself intimately, and discover God in that space. “The simplest form of awakening to God is described by Needleman: a new intense sense of self, accompanied with a desire for I know not what, a desire to do with the feeling of being a destiny.”
S.M. talks about ‘desire’, whereas I am more used to talking about ‘love’. Although, the advantage of the term ‘desire’ is it is more explicit in it’s movement – attraction. Created by desire (love) we as human beings are essentially desirable (lovable). It is out of that desirableness that our desires for beauty, for relationships, for knowledge all come. That is, we do not engage with life out of an inner vacuum, but rather out of fullness. When we encounter people or experiences that we are drawn to, it is because we are reminded or connected to that inner desirableness that is innate in us, and a dance of attraction ensues. We pursue that which connects us to ourselves, as we were created beautiful and loved by the wonderful Lord of the Universe. “To feel the desire that motivates all my living, to feel my essential nerve of desire, is to feel the desire that motivates all people. The nerve of my life runs through all the living.” From here it is easy to enter into the Ignation spiritual practice of ‘pursuing goodness.’
I love the way S.M. draws the human being as an image of God. God created us so close to God’s own heart that it is almost like we encounter the very being of God when we truly encounter ourselves. Almost, but not quite, for God is always distinct and so much greater and grander. (Which leads me to thoughts of the Cappadocians Fathers and their contemplation of ‘theosis’.) For me, ‘original sin’ is not the besmirching of this innate lovableness, sin is situated in the way we move out from this center. Our inner beauty is designed to release us to love others because we are loved. Sin’s distortion is that we grab the fulfillment of our desires for ourselves, inflating our own importance as an object of love, disregarding the connectedness we have with others, and denying the dependence we have on our Creator for the gift of lovableness in itself.
Finally, I valued S.M.’s practical suggestions for pursuing the gift of knowing ourselves and encountering God. He suggested there are four ways in which desire (love) opens itself to the ultimate cause of desire (God). 1. through an intimate relationship; 2. through vulnerability in community; 3. creative solitude (I love that phrase); and 4. through conscience, i.e. “the drawing of desire by something different from my obvious betterment, and often opposed to it. It is the feeling of desire as my impulse toward a fuller, less self-centered life.”