The contemplative journey into the mystical tradition of the West has always been the way of unification with the Ultimate, Divine Reality, God, and the way a realized, integral person lives in the world in her or his fullness and purity of love and compassion towards all beings.
The Christian mystical tradition of the early times described such a spiritual journey in three levels: purification, illumination, and unification (via purgativa, via iluminativa, via unitiva). In today's language, we can say that the purification is the full integration of the ego, our limited, separate-self sense, which involves the calming and understanding of the process of emotional, mental and volitional aspects of the human soul. Illumination is the realization of the first level of insight into the true nature of things, accompanied by powerful confirmations by means of strengthening spiritual powers and insights, followed by the conscious integration of the "Shadow" – the suppressed parts of our psyche (the psychic and the subtle level of the soul). Finally, unification as the realization of our integral, true being in unity with the First Source, with God's life in us (causal level of consciousness), and ultimately, as life itself, pure consciousness inseparable from the True Nature of Life, in which our true Self disappears and is fulfilled in living life as it really is (on a non-dual level of consciousness where I no longer lives in unity with God, but God lives /through/ me).
Let the God be God in /through) you. MEISTER ECKHART
A contemplative, mystical journey starts with a sincere question, coming from the depths of the soul: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? How can I achieve the fullness of life? From the early Christian times, a Greek word was used to describe the beginning of the spiritual journey – metanoia, conversion, in the sense of a complete change of the entire being, from the superficial to the genuine, from false to true. So, the path of the mystic is the way of transformation of our entire being; from partial, divided, and limited small self, to an integral, undivided and unlimited Self, and finally into the uncreated, timeless and spaceless Spirit of life itself.
Open mind and open heart are the key elements of spiritual development, but they cannot be attained in life only through honest interest, research and study of this process. It must be actualized in me, here-and-now. The most important part of the spiritual journey is to include contemplative practice in our everyday life. Such practice involves calm and relaxed, but also alert and wake, sitting and breathing, attention and intention. It leads to the calming, relaxation and release of all the contents of consciousness that make up our superficial self – made-up thoughts, emotions and images that arise from the relationship of emotional, volitional and mental part of human psyche and/with the world around us. All contents of consciousness that came from the relationship with the world and, consequently created all forms of suffering that arose from the restlessness of the spirit, were called passions by the desert fathers and mothers in the first centuries A.D. Passions were obstacles to looking into the truth behind them, beyond all the content of consciousness with which human nature was accustomed to connect, become dependent on and identify with. So they introduced kenosis or (self-)emptying as the basic practice that leads a practitioner to apatheia or equanimity, the state without passions and, eventually, to theosis, unification with the Godhead.
Basically, there are two main types of contemplative practices – concentrative, in which consciousness focuses on one content (sacred word, body or breath), and receptive, in which consciousness disengages from all content, with the aim of achieving detachment from its contents, whatever they are. They can also be combined in the sense that one starts with the concentrative practice and, after some time, continues with receptive one; from the practices in concentration, practices of emptiness follow. Being based on this basic structure of the meditative practices of all the spiritual traditions of the world, Christian contemplation holds an important part in this vast, global family of Spirit.
Let images and objects pass, and keep your temple empty.
JOHANNES TAULER (14. st.)
Contemplative exercise is, also, called prayer, because it involves complete trust, surrender, and devotion. Trust, because we do not yet see the entire road, and we do not understand all the spiritual principles and all its parts, but we sense and we trust, that it leads us in the right direction. Surrender, because in that contemplative act we give all of ourselves completely, believing in the transformation of our being. Devotion, because we realize that without daily effort, we cannot achieve any results.
From the early centuries, the goal of the contemplative path was called theosis – divinization. God became man, so that man might become God, as St. Irenaeus had defined in the 2nd century the wholeness of this journey. Subsequently, it was confirmed by all the greatest mystics and spiritual teachers in Christian history (later, in the West, by rather different terminology). It is a moment of attaining unity with the Ultimate, Divine Reality which is uncreated, timeless and spaceless. It is the realization of the purpose of human life on Earth and all its potential.
Still, there is no path, no goal, no realization. For, both the one who is being realized and that what is being realized – dissolve in one Spirit. In other words, he or she who is traveling, that which is realized and the manner of realization, is – one. This awakening in its true, Divine nature shows that things can be seen and lived only in and by what they themselves are. At any moment, at any here-and-now moment, they, and we with them, just are, and nothing more. Because...
The path is the goal, and the goal is the path.
Religion is life, and life is religion.