Thursday, January 21, 2010

Practical Adoration II

[NB This is the post for Monday the 25th January as I'm on a long-haul flight that day.]

We tend to speak of this trinitarian movement—the imageless silence of adoration, the outpouring of its effects, and the return to silence—as if there were three separate stages. The dualistic nature of language forces us to speak this way, but it is misleading. The silence and the music/speech are coinherent and indistinguishable. It is a mistake to speak of “Contemplation and…” as if contemplative adoration were a discrete and exalted entity, not to be sullied by daily activity, or liturgy, or spiritual maturation. [4] It is the essential energy in all of them—or should be. To understand the organic nature of adoration in everyday life is key to understanding the resurrection of the mind through the body that is the essence of Christianity.

This overflowing and permeation of the most sublime through the most ordinary is a litmus test of true contemplation. It is in adoration that we learn that all experience, no matter how wonderful—even the experiences that lead us to adoration—is only, ever, interpretation, and therefore secondary. We need to understand that experience in itself is never direct perception, but that, like language, it is always reflexive; that is to say, it is always self-conscious and therefore self-regarding, however disinterested that regard may be. Experience is interpretation.

The narrative we create that we call “experience” always has its eye on the illusory and anxious construct we call our selves. By contrast, adoration completely forgets about anxieties and the self as well. But the two need not be mutually exclusive. If experience—the way we interpret what happens to us—has adoration as its wellspring, it can serve the same function as Wesley’s hymn, always intensifying and renewing our focus away from our selves into the continual non-experiential, non-reflexive adoration in our deepest heart, where the unfolding truth of our life is revealed.

As we search for the language to interpret what we have received in adoration, adoration itself becomes the reference point. As the Word seeks to express itself through us (logophasis), we are continually measuring these words against the “memory”—there can be no memory as adoration is entirely self-forgetful—of adoration. [5]

In this logophatic process, silence itself becomes a tool of interpretation and analysis, not only for what the Word is trying to express through us, but also for our interpretation of the events of our ordinary lives that we take into silence. What does this text, experience, or person tell me of the vision of God? Does the text resonate in the heart as only logophasis can resonate, or are these words, however well written, just a lot of empty syntax and wishful thinking? How does this text, experience, or person encourage me to enter the silence of adoration more deeply? Will this text, experience, or person create an interior storm of pleasurable excitement, or anguish and distress, clouding the mind with noisy distraction? [6] What is the quality of silence in this text, experience, or person? (This use of silence is also called “the reading of hearts.”)


[4] Adoration and contemplation are essentially indistinguishable; the word “adoration” perhaps carries more emotional energy. Both words gesture toward the realm of the unsayable; the distinction is entirely literary.

[5] What we are remembering/interpreting, perhaps, is the threshold, the tipping point at which our self-consciousness disappears. For a depiction of this process in a late thirteenth-century illuminated manuscript, search the Internet for Rothschild Canticles f.104r: click on Figurae; scroll down and click on the image.

[6] Although no sane person would welcome the return of the abuses of the Index of Forbidden Books, there is a germ of healthy vigilance behind the idea. For all of us, there are books we wish we hadn’t read, movies we wish we hadn’t seen, activities we no longer care to engage in—all of which can leave residual images in the mind that take time and effort to dissolve. Having discovered the still waters of peace, we no longer seek over-stimulation.


Blogger Scott said...

Please be careful when looking for the illuminated manuscript. I did a Google search on the item. There were a lot of hits. Could not find it on top. At about the middle item on the first page of the search results, a virus started to download. I have stopped looking for the mentioned illumination, alas.

1:04 pm, January 22, 2010  
Blogger Scott said...

My last note may need clarification. It is meant to be a gentle warning to those who go searching for the illumination.

1:56 pm, January 22, 2010  
Anonymous Steven Winwright said...

I eventually found the Mandola, with a little searching - it seems Google filters different results at different times! It was the second choice on Yahoo.

Copy and paste the following hyperlink for quick reference:

4:07 pm, January 24, 2010  

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