From The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation
One reason that we so often discuss prayer only superficially and intellectually is because this, in some ways, is the most personal and intimate aspect of one’s life. Speaking about it is like laying oneself open for public examination. Our meditations reveal what matters most to us, and it is not easy to stand naked before others in our weakness and fear and exaltation. Perhaps it seems strange that contact with the Holy should be such a difficult experience to share. Yet this is like telling of the intimate aspects of one’s love life.
In reality meditation is the record of one’s love life with God. Sharing it with another person is like taking someone into the bedroom scene where one learns that all love has its ups and downs. I have discovered in listening to people that it is only after I am really trusted that they will tell me of their deepest religious feelings, their hopes and experiences and commitments.
This reluctance to speak about religious experience stood out, almost like the walls of a building, among students at Notre Dame. When they first came in to talk, it would be about some book or idea. If I passed muster in that situation, then in another hour of listening and talking I might hear about problems with parents or a brother, or in the dormitory; their sense of loneliness and isolation and problems of identity. And after that test I might then be admitted to a room full of sexual fears and tales of sexual peccadilloes, some not so minor. But there was still another level of sharing which I found only when they were quite convinced that I would not doubt or ridicule or pressure. It was then that I was admitted to their religious experience, their sense of the presence of God, their feeling of closeness and desire to serve and know Him better.
It takes courage to share in this way with a friend and counselor. Allowing another person into this deepest level in this way with a friend and counselor. Allowing another person into this deepest level of our human experience makes any of us ultimately vulnerable, for it allows the other person to discover where our deepest values are and where we can be touched. We are exposing to another human being the center from which we move or wish to move. This demands real courage. And it requires even more of us to open ourselves in depth to the Other who is at the heart and center of reality. Most of us are afraid to try because we have not been able to take the Christian revelation really seriously.
We have heard so much about justice and judgment and the wrath of God that it is hard to believe anything else in our nerves and cells. Even when we try, in our heads, to accept what Jesus Christ reveals to us about the ultimate reality in the universe, we are not truly convinced. It is so easy to find anger and retribution among people, to learn about criticism and lack of acceptance even among our closest friends and family, that we keep on projecting upon God what we have known from people. There seems to be little reason to expect anything else. And so it requires real courage to turn to the center of things, to face that reality and find out what is there.
We are not really sure that Jesus knew what He was talking about in the story of the prodigal son, when He described God as that father who stands peering into the desert waiting for a wayward child to come home so that He can pour out upon the child the incredible richness of His love and concern. This is too good to be true. At the same time it threatens our whole way of life. If we should turn to the center of reality and actually find that kind of concern and love, then our lives, many of our motives and reasons for being, would be turned upside down. No wonder it takes a genuine act of will, first to believe that God could be like this, and then to act on that belief.
Then, too, we have to turn away from the idea of popular sentimentality about God being loving. Freud was certainly right in criticizing that kind of religion, which he described as a longing to return to the womb. It expresses a superficial desire to be taken care of by an indulgent parent without conscious consideration of what life is about. But this does not come out of a genuine confrontation with God, with “Love.” Even parents, when they love in the deepest and wisest way, try not to indulge their children and make them dependent. As long as dependency is needed, they offer it, but their real desire is to encourage the child to step out toward maturity. How can we expect any less of God? Those who have the courage to face the reality and be confronted by that Love are refined and transformed by the experience. They do not fall back into childishness very easily.
Being confronted by love means responding, giving back freely to the Other. And what can we possibly give to God — that is ours to give — in return for His love? Saint Catherine of Siena was once asked this, and she wrote back that the only thing we can offer God of value to Him is to give our love to people as unworthy of it as we are of His love. Really meeting the God who is love means stepping willingly into the refining fire to be slowly remade and changed into the kind of love that one has confronted. Some even turn away from human love to escape this demand upon them. They realize how powerful that experience can be, and they resist being opened up to forces outside themselves which might loosen their ego control of life and change them. Love is indeed a powerful experience; one can be caught by it and forced to change, which is painful for most human beings. And the touch of a loving God is no less powerful and dangerous than that of a human love affair.
The Ways of Relationship
Sometimes we conceal our relation with God in prayer because we are afraid that others are closer than we are, that someone may be further ahead. But once we have turned and are actually seeking to confront the Other, then we will almost certainly find a need for someone to talk with. Real confrontation with love demands sharing of this experience. And in sharing we realize that all of us, even the best, are babes in the woods.
So much growth and transformation are possible in one’s relationship with God that those who are trying are like the laborers in the vineyard. There is little difference between the one who has labored all day and the one who has been at work for only an hour. The first and the last are not far apart. And each of us, the best and the least alike, needs other human beings with whom we can share our deepest experiences and safeguard against deceiving ourselves. We each need some person with whom we can talk about any of these things, any level of experience, and we also need a group — which of course can be only two people — with whom we can pray. Although a real confrontation with the God revealed in Jesus Christ often comes alone and apart, in the desert or on the solitary mountain top, it draws us toward other human beings. This is a natural and integral part of the experience of meeting God. When it fails to happen, something is wrong.
The practice of prayer and meditation is as complex and varied as human life itself. As we confront the reality of the Other, we bring every part of our being, our ideas and thoughts, our plans for the day, for the week, for our entire life to the Other. We disclose our fears, our hopes, our human love, our thirst for more than human love, our anger and vengeance, our depression, sorrow and lostness, the values that are important to us, our adoration and joy and thanksgiving. Leaving out any part of the spectrum of human life makes prayer and meditation incomplete, and that is like meeting a person whom one hopes to know better, only to find that the relationship cannot grow because the other person dares to share only a small part of himself/herself.
What is true of human relationships at their deepest and best is even more true of the relationship with God. It is not very hard to know when we are at our best in relating. At those times we want to know all about the other person, including the darkness and shadow, so that we can love or care for that individual better. If one loves, one can bear everything. And the incredible mystery of Christianity is that God wants to know us in that way, in total depth and reality, the darkness as well as the light, the anger as well as the love. Indeed our human desire to know and love some other person in depth springs out of the very nature and reality of God Himself. This is perhaps the most essential way in which we are made in the image and likeness of God, this way of needing to love and to be loved.
I have had one particularly good friend who taught me much about this. He once shared the very depths of his broken life with me, a life indeed broken by alcoholism and sexual fear, failure in school, failure in life. Gradually my friend came together. He began to be able to deal with life. He got a job. He kept it. Jointly through the support of AA and through a vow renewed each week at the altar rail, he stopped his drinking. He got married and then went to work in another city. He lived there, creatively and independently, for three years. But when he came back and we talked, it was apparent that something had happened between us. We did not really seem to communicate. Then a time came when we discussed this. And it came out that my friend had felt that he did not want to bother me with any more of his shadowy darkness, any of the weakness that of course did not just evaporate. We both realized that he was keeping a part of himself from me and that this actually prevented the relationship from being real. Once it was clear that we were both losers, that we each needed to know a whole person and not just a mask or portion, then we were friends again.
Almost the same story could be told over and over of our relationship with God. As long as we feel that there is some part of ourselves that we cannot lay out and share with God, then we cheat Him fully as much as ourselves. For some inscrutable reason, something hidden deep in His nature, He wants to meet the totality of us, good, bad, and indifferent, in the greatest depth. And only then can His love touch every part of us and transform or change the whole.
For this reason the meditative process is a many-faceted jewel. There are as many different sides of meditation and prayer, of meeting and confronting the Other, as there are sides of human life. If there are parts of us that we do not bring to the Other, it is like letting part of the gem go uncut. So many people like to emphasize certain forms of prayer or meditation such as prayer of thanksgiving or adoration. But these are completed only when one’s prayer life involves all the other aspects of his life, from one’s anguish and despair to volcanic and explosive anger. There are prayer forms appropriate to each of these sides of life. If we want the transformation that can come, we need to bring all parts of ourselves before the Presence. Sometimes the very things of which we are most ashamed can become the most brilliant part of our being when they are touched by that Presence and changed. This was the change that the alchemists were talking about when they hoped that the base metal might be transformed into gold; they were speaking more of the base metal of their human nature than of the metal in the furnace.
Some years ago Louis Evely set down these thoughts about sharing and love:
Love must express and communicate itself.
That’s its nature.
When people begin to love one another,
they start telling everything that’s happened to them,
every detail of their daily life;
they “reveal” themselves to each other,
unbosom themselves and exchange confidences.
God hasn’t ceased being Revelation
any more than He’s ceased being Love.
He enjoys expressing Himself.
Since He’s love,
He must give Himself,
share His secrets,
communicate with us
and reveal Himself to anyone
who wants to listen.
(That Man is You)
These words speak a very profound truth. Love can begin only as we begin to allow others to really know us. We can begin to love and be loved only as we bring all of ourselves to the other person, all of our disappointments, our joys, our angers and hopes. This is the nature of love and communication. It applies as much between God and a person as it does between person and person, and perhaps even more. For this reason we shall say quite a bit about prayer in fear and anguish, in anger and sorrow, since modern piety mostly seems to assume that we cannot find God through these experiences. Yet, any good parent expects to love and comfort children, to help them pick up the pieces when things seem to go wrong. God is certainly not less than a human parent.
Communication is a growing process. As one comes to trust more and more, one reveals more and more. Sometimes these will be things which looked so black that we buried them deep in the unconscious. We could not bear to keep remembering them. As trust and concern and love begin to grow, even these things can be brought out of the darkness. And until then few of us can ever become free of the nagging fear, hidden in the heart of nearly every person, that no one could really stand us if we actually let them see the totality of our being. I recall one young man with whom I worked for over two years before he was able to reveal the things he disliked most about himself. When he finally did, the change in him was miraculous.
It is not easy for us to realize that the One who is love does care for us. We have to bring the more secret parts of ourselves up slowly and let the reality of the One who is love be tested. This takes courage, patience, time. In fact one of the reasons why I believe in a life after death is the way communication with the Other develops. Even in the best of lives this reality is just beginning to grow at the end of that life. Even when we have known this experience of communication with the Other early in life, and realize all along that this Other is trying to communicate with us, our lives are just not long enough to bring all the parts of them and all of our actions into accord with the Other. There is no good reason to believe that the One who begins this process, and offers us all the care we are able to take, then will end the process just as we are beginning to experience it. On the contrary, every now and then an experience comes to one or another of us which strongly suggests that this process goes on after our physical death.
Human Types and Meditation
If this is true, then quite possibly there is meaning in the fact that we have suggested that meditation can be as varied as life itself. Since each person is unique, each one will have an individual way of relating the totality of his or her being to God. Other people’s ideas may be helpful, but only one’s own way which is uniquely individual and personal, will offer a relationship with the Other that is real and meaningful.
We have become so accustomed to thinking of human beings as sociological abstracts that we forget that no two of them are identical, any more than any two leaves are identical. When even our fingers and toes and voices leave a distinguishing imprint, it is no wonder that our personalities also differ in many unique ways. There have been several attempts to find some order in this variation, some rule of thumb that would make it easier for different types of people to understand each other better. One of these theories is the understanding of personality types developed by Dr. C. G. Jung. This theory, which is one of his most important contributions to psychological thought, has been tested experimentally by Isabel Briggs Myers. The test she developed is very helpful and not difficult to use.
Jung’s theory suggests that there are sixteen basically different types of individuals, and that each type has its own characteristic ways of taking in information and organizing it. Many of our fundamental divisions over prayer and ritual may well be understood as different ways in which different types of individuals prefer to relate to religious realities. When we love another person we try to understand and relate to that person just as he/she is, and we do not expect him/her to be a carbon copy of ourselves. My experience of God is that He is far more understanding than we are at our best. After all, He is the creator who has made us and given us different ways of responding and relating to this world. Apparently He wants each of us to seek Him in whatever way is the best for us individually, and He honors each personality and does not try to force us into any particular pattern or mold in order to relate to Him.
Our task is for each of us to find the way that is best, and then developing one’s own relationship to the Other in that way. There are certain universal principles, of course, which must be followed. Beyond that, in order to find the deepest kind of relationship with the Divine, one needs to know oneself and the strengths one has been given so that they can be used in seeking and responding to God. Later on there is a time to try other approaches and methods. But until one has tested one’s own way, it is not wise to adopt another person’s meditational practice without knowing whether it will lead as far as one might go by following one’s own way.
It is so easy for a religious leader to assume that the way which is meaningful for him or her must be equally meaningful for everyone else. This has presented a real problem in many denominations, and also in religious Orders in which the actual devotional practice of one leader could be made the rule for all. For about sixty years many Catholic Orders followed a meditational practice based almost exclusively on the approach of Adolphe Tanquerey, who adopted the ideas of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. This method holds that the use of images is an inferior way of meditating and seeks to place the whole emphasis on mental communion in an imageless void. It has value, particularly for certain individuals, but certainly not as an exclusive practice. The needs of various types of individuals could be met if other approaches, like the very different practice of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, were available.
Still, there are two sides to this matter of the individual’s personality type and his/her way of relating to God. God expects those of us who seek Him to keep on growing, learning to use our personalities more fully so that we will be able to know and relate to Him more and more completely. This goal makes it even more important to know one’s own strengths and weaknesses so that each of us is prepared both to share with others and also to learn from them. At this point, trying out and sharing someone else’s way of meditating is important, both for the leader and for the follower. This is one way that each of us can find hidden parts of ourselves and bring them to the meeting with God. With this in mind, let us take a look at our differences in personality structure and how they relate to devotional practice.
There is first of all the very basic difference between the extravert and the introvert, between one whose interest lies in the outer world of people, affairs and tangible things, and one who is comfortable being alone and turning inward. Since extraverts find meaning among people and in doing things, their prayer life will probably be geared to service with and to others. They are likely to find God more often present in the outer physical world than through inner experiences of quiet. Yet extraverts also need time for quiet and reflection; otherwise they have no chance to integrate what they have experienced among others and find its significance for their own growth and their deeper relationship with God.
Introverts, on the other hand, already find the inner world fascinating and easy to deal with. They are very likely to have no trouble finding an inner experience of God’s presence, and then look down on those persons who find their meaning largely in the outer world. Since they enjoy quiet, it is relatively easy for them to find time to meditate and seek a personal relationship with the Other. Their need, then, is to be called back to the outer world in service to other humans and to society, which is difficult but necessary for them. Unless they will get out and deal with the realities of the outer world, both beautiful and sordid, their devotional life tends to become unrealistic and detached. Certainly it would seem that the introvert and extravert need each other if each is to find the deepest and most fulfilling devotional life.
Instead, this difference between two types of personality has probably been one real cause of discord and schism in the church. In his tremendously important book Psychological Types, Jung has suggested that type structure may have been a basic factor in the great theological split of the Middle Ages when reason and revelation, the natural and the supernatural began to part company. In this clash between nominalism and realism, the nominalists were basically interested in the outer world. The realists were caught up by the inner world and its structure. This seemed to them to be the ultimate reality. For them the image or idea that came to the mind was more real than the outer physical thing which was mediated by sense experience. Because of this personality difference, neither side could see the possibility of getting along with the other, and so the conflict was brought to a head.
Besides such differing attitudes toward the outer world as a whole, most of us develop at least one of four functions that we use in dealing with the realities we encounter. Two of these are functions of perception, which involve taking in information about the world, usually about parts of it in which one is interested. The other two relate to judging, deciding about how to organize and use this information.
A mature individual generally develops one of these functions highly, another to a lesser degree, and then leaves at least one buried in the unconscious and seldom consciously used. We can sometimes learn to work with this fourth function, but this is usually not wise until we have developed the ones that are easy for us to use. By experimenting in the weakest area before working consciously to find the strengths that can be used, one usually ends up undeveloped in all areas. After we have learned to function well in our favorite area and can use an auxiliary or secondary one, and after finding a nodding acquaintance with our third function, we can then investigate what our inferior function can do for us. (The undeveloped function, being in the depth of oneself, can often give a person access to the depth of one’s being, and using the inferior function is sometimes a way of allowing the powers of God to reach one most dramatically. Marie-Louise von Franz and James Hillman have written wisely on the importance of the inferior function. The great mystic Jakob Boehme demonstrated its importance by developing his understanding for years around the experience of a ray of light striking a shiny pan. His inferior sensing function opened the way to him and he worked for years to integrate it.)
The first pair of functions, by which one receives information, are the perceptive ones that are called the sensing and the intuitive functions. Those persons who prefer to use their senses, the sensing type, are interested in individual details. Generally they like repeatable situations and are more comfortable in a well-known environment. They live in the “now” timewise and are usually “get-it-done” persons, doers. Action is their response to prayer and also to the rest of life. They often find religious pictures, crucifixes, icons helpful. Their prayer life will tend toward structured and familiar prayers, some often-used meditation. They are likely to be conservative in their meditational practices. They have real need to go out from their meditation into social action and correct what needs correcting.
In contrast, the intuitive persons are more often interested in unconscious data, in perceptions that are received in some way other than by sense experience. The unconscious is their ball park, and they enjoy it, either observing its influence in the outer world or directly in the inner one. They are likely to be innovative religious leaders, interested in renewal in the church. Their time sense is in the future and they are “thinker-uppers.” They seldom can handle the details of what they think up, however. The inner life is very meaningful to them, and since they use images and understand their meaning, they will probably be bold in trying new ways of meditating. They find themselves at home in imaginative praying.
In religion it is important that the conservative, stick-by-the-rule leader does not quench the enthusiasm of the intuitive person, and also that the intuitive does not expect the impossible of sensing individuals, but allows their prayer to lead them into doing something about what they perceive. At the same time, each has a great deal to learn from the other. The intuitive must learn that there are bounds beyond which one cannot step without danger, and that one’s own value has its roots in tradition, while the sensing person needs to realize something of the vast openness and freedom of the imaginative, intuitive world and its possibilities.
I recall one clear-cut example of this. I was working with a woman who came to me in real depression, whose personality seemed to be limited only to the sensing function. When I suggested looking within and finding an image that would help her express her feelings of difficulty, she protested that she simply could not use creative imagination. There was nothing there; no images would come. Yet, when a change finally began to take place in her, it happened when she realized that she had felt bound and that this had made her depressed. Suddenly she imagined that the bonds were dropping away from her body, and there was an experience of release which had a remarkable effect on her whole life.
The other pair of functions have to do with two essentially opposite ways of organizing the data that one receives. These are the rational or judging functions that determine how we deal with the experiences that come to us, and they are known as thinking and feeling. The person of thinking type likes to classify and arrange things according to logical or intellectual values, while the feeling individual prefers to base decisions and actions upon human values.
The first term is easy for us to understand. The thinking person is essentially interested in logical relationships and how the world fits together into a total scheme of meaning. Time for these individuals runs in a straight line from past to present to future, so that they see things in historical perspective. Their concern is with ideas and relationship between them, and they just aren’t much concerned about how other people are affected or whether others are upset by their understanding of things.
The description of a “feeling type,” however, is harder for most people to understand. This term has nothing to do with feeling in the ordinary sense of either emotion or physical sensation. Instead, it means making evaluations on the basis of how things affect people. What is important to the “feeling type” individual is the personal value or the value for others of the act or thing or person or idea. People are important to “feeling type” individuals, and they organize their actions and thoughts around human values. Their sense of time is rotary, moving from present to past to present. They arrive at their values by matching experiences that are meaningful to them in the present with those that have been meaningful in the past, and they organize their lives according to these values. They are generally quick to grasp and understand the values of others and the meaning of what is happening to them, while ideas and logical connections are seldom important to them.
The thinking types usually build their meditational life through connections with ideas and theology. They find philosophy important and value the effort to understand God within a framework of ideas and in the historical process. To them God can be apprehended by the mind as well as through experience. Their devotional life might seem cold and detached to the feeling person, and they need the correction and support of human values and close personal relationships.
Feeling individuals, on the other hand, find the greatest religious value and meaning in personal service and intimacy. The intimate Eucharist, where there are horizontal relations between people, is often very important to them and probably more significant for them than a majestic liturgy or a finely constructed sermon. Much of their meditational life is expressed in loving action toward others. But at the same time, they also need help to awaken their thinking function, first simply to evaluate the results of their actions, and then to see their place in a more total framework so that they will be able to communicate to others the meaning they find.
In The Kingdom Within, John Sanford has suggested that Jesus expressed the ultimate of what human beings ought to be by combining these various types of personality in perfect balance. He was able to turn inward and relate to the inner world. He wa also able to deal with the outer world as no other human being. He cared about people, and yet He could defeat the scribes and Pharisees in intellectual battles. He had the most comprehensive intellectual framework. He perceived the beauty and meaning of the outer world and at the same time was uniquely open to the intuitive depth of humankind. Since we human beings are nowhere nearly as balanced as He, we can use only two, or at the most three, of these capacities. But as we do learn to use them, we can put them to meditational use for our own growth. And a part of this is learning to be tolerant and accepting of those who have other ways of responding to the divine.
It is important to realize that each type of person has to take his/her own avenue to find and explore his/her relationship with God. God is found in many different ways. The important thing for me as an individual is to find a way that will get me there, into that relationship, so that I can begin to grow. For teachers of the religious way the important thing is to learn how to encourage different ways of responding, to discover how they differ from their own, and how others can develop their own relationship. They also need to study the language and the expressions of others. Most of the devotional manuals were probably written by introverted intuitive (as they would usually be the only ones who would care about writing them) and so they must be translated to be understood by other types.
Whether we are directing our own lives or others’ it is wise to realize that our type structures can change as life changes within and around us. Thus, practices which may be very meaningful at one time will not be as important at another period of our lives. Real life is fluid and ever changing, and so are real people, particularly in their relationship with the center and core of reality. When we are “stuck in cement” and cannot change our meditational lives, they suffer just like our relationships with other human beings. Creative human beings keep changing and adjusting to the complexities and varieties of life, to new experiences and new people, and also to God.
Meditation and Art
As we write about our relationship with the Other, we cannot avoid getting close to poetry or art, for we are expressing the deepest and most powerful emotions that we can have. Some people scorn art because they confuse it with entertainment. A friend wrote to me: “By making us aware of alternatives, art allows us to participate more fully in life. Most of what is called art is for the most part not art but entertainment. Its purpose is rather to make us less aware, to dull our senses, to confuse us, to give a false feeling of security and success. These forms of entertainment are drugs for the mind and soul, drugs to ease our pain rather than tools to use in curling the illness or at least letting us live with it creatively.” There is a place for relaxation and entertainment, but this is seldom a major part of our relation with God.
If there is indeed an Other who seeks us and who wishes to love us, and we are not aware of Him and do not relate to Him, we are certainly not dealing with the totality of life. Perhaps the greatest expressions of art are those meditations and flights of imagination which express our relations with God and which enable other people to see the possible alternative ways of finding the reality of One who really cares for them and will direct them in their total being. Sometimes art, which merely shows us the futility of life without the Other, can drive us on to the alternative, but the great expressions of art and religion are those which show us the futility and meaninglessness and then the way out. It is here that Dante, Goethe, and Shakespeare are masters indeed, but the greatest masterpiece of art is the Bible and in particular, the gospel narratives.
Each of us becomes the artist as we allow ourselves to be open to the reality of the Other and give expression to that encounter either in words or paint or stone or in the fabric of our lives. Each of us who has come to know and relate to the Other and expresses this in any way is an artist in spite of himself/herself. The reason for the tragedy and futility of so much of modern life is that it has lost this dimension. The art which reflects only the barrenness of life shares in the meaninglessness and absurdity. In the deepest sense religion, in which the individual has not been touched by the center of which we speak, is cold and unfeeling. It does not know the fire and expression of art. Art, which has not touched the same center, either is bravado in the darkness, despair, or debases itself into entertainment. In the final analysis meditation is the art of living life in its fullest and deepest. Genuine religion and art are two names for the same incredible meeting with reality and give expression to that experience in some manner. The experience of this reality demands expression. This is part of the experience. Those who have been badly hurt or disappointed by churches can perhaps recover something of the reality by seeing the process of meditation and prayer as the final and sublime art form and the most creative way of living out a life.
It is only dangerous to view meditation as art when we do not take art seriously and so refuse to see that real art is working one’s salvation out with fear and trembling. When art is seen merely as one’s attempt to real aesthetic perfection, then it loses its seriousness and becomes a plaything and not a reality. But this is only possible in a world which does not know the reality of the spiritual world and so sees art merely as a human product and not a revelation of more than human harmony and meaning.
Jung warns against viewing one’s record of inner experiences as art, either written descriptions of fantasies or paintings of the inner moods. One must be careful not to view these as “art” because then they lose their seriousness and a transformation within us. One of the ways of cutting us off from the spiritual world is simply to view this as mere art or mere aesthetics. Henry Miller speaks with power of the reality of art with a capital “A” in his Open Letter to the Surrealist written in 1938. This kind of Art is very close to meditation.
One critic who saw the opening performance of T. S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party on Broadway remarked that he felt like leaving the theatre on his knees beating his breast. The same critic would probably not have been touched by the ordinary religious service. Yet he caught the utter seriousness about salvation and the reality of the spiritual world which is found in so many places in Eliot’s poetry, in the children’s stories of C. S. Lewis, particularly The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and in the novels of Charles Williams. We find the same quality in even greater measure in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Goethe’s Faust, and in a more hidden way in some of Shakespeare’s plays like Measure for Measure, The Tempest, Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Only a cheap, disillusioned, or frivolous art is antagonistic to religious experience and meditation.
Where the church fails in its task, God uses whatever channels are open, whether they happen to be artists or psychiatrists. One psychiatrist friend once said, “Morton, there is a place for religion in the church as well as in the psychiatrist’s office.”
Humankind stands as a bridge between two worlds. Our greatest moments are when we have met, nakedly and face-to-face, the reality that saves and transforms, and then express this as part of our assimilating the experience. Our records of such experiences give us a further step on the road. They also give others light to find the path they must follow. Everyone’s encounter and record brings more light and consciousness into this world and allows the forces of darkness to be beaten back.