Last weekend was another inspiring and successful conference organised by the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland, as before it was held at Oakham School and there were about 50 people present. The thing is something starts to happen in groups – a sort of group energy. I guess this can be a good energy or a less good or even malign energy. However I think if there are enough people present involved in contemplative prayer and who are aware in the present moment then there’s some sense of divine energy that gets evoked. It needs enough people present who are seekers and searchers – and in this case everyone I met was interested in the work and thought of Thomas Merton otherwise why would they be there. Merton was above all else a spiritual searcher and also someone who based his thinking on personal experience. I think that over three days of this sort of focus there is a build up to reach what has been called a critical mass of divine energy. Suddenly it is clear that we are all in it together, we are all connected in a meaningful and loose sort of way and I noticed in myself a letting go of tension and a warm feeling about being part of this community. There was a feeling of acceptance and belonging.
Of course this sort of experience also has, as any good Jungian would know, the shadow aspect which is that after there is a real sense of loss and perhaps deflation – a sadness that something uplifting has to end and that we all leave. The experience is so transient, was it an illusion? Is it just an idealisation of a fantasy or a projection of some unmet need? No it wasn’t because the longer lasting feeling is of having been spiritually nourished at some deep level. This is the outcome of when the group energy becomes the divine energy.