Thursday, February 16, 2012


Affective has a specific meaning: the primacy of the heart (love) which drives intention beyond the linear self-consciousness, which it then informs. The heart enables us to dwell quietly and without fuss in attentive waiting in the ordinary, while, without our knowing it, our self-consciousness is transfigured in ways too subtle for us to recognise except in retrospect. God's best work is always out of our sight.

This loving intent ('nakid entent' in The Cloud) enables perseverance in the work of silence: it simplifies, it strips everything extraneous to the one thing necessary; it focuses the seamless self-forgetful love that overflows from God to neighbour and self. It frees us from the slavery of looking for 'results', or 'success', from the demands of what our self-conscious mind thinks we 'ought' to feel like, or what the so-called spiritual life 'ought' to be.

The word affective is often wrongly used to describe devotions, be they the disciplined rhetorical extravagances of Bernard—which he is then careful to qualify and elide into the apophatic, or the kitsch effusions of lesser writers. The word affective in religious writing or in our own lives is not about emotion or feeling, but rather about an intention that is steadfast beyond whatever we think or feel.

The litmus test is paradox, for paradoxes link the two epistemologies, the self-conscious mind; and the deep mind, which is not directly accessible, and can be influenced only indirectly by intention. Paradoxes in this process operate as descriptors, catalysts, transponders, passkeys, portals and more. In Bernard's writings, for example, as in those of Bonaventure, Porete and the Cloud-author, the images of love are paradoxical because they are signalling a love, an intention, that is so faithful that it is detached from its own desire, a willingness to free-fall in the love of God.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Does theology play a part here? I'm reading Barker and wondering if loving-intention, waiting, silence and self-emptying are all, where does theology fit and does it matter what theology I have? Forgive my naivete ....

All Good Wishes


4:34 pm, February 17, 2012  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

'Who prays is a theologian and who is a theologian prays.' - Evagrius

5:03 pm, February 17, 2012  

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