Concerning the Inner Life 2

In the same way as moving beneath the surface in therapeutic work gives us insights into who we really are and why we are the way we are, and such knowledge helps to transform our sense of self, so too does going below the surface into the depths of our relationship with God. The easiest route is through prayer. This is not prayer as outward liturgy, though it can help, nor by what someone called ‘the intercessionary burden’ by which I think they meant a long list of people who had to be prayed for, but this is rather more about the route that takes us to a secret life of prayer. This in essence is about a re-orientation away from self and towards God and a deepening and increasing love towards God and a belief that each of us is really loved by God.
Perhaps deepening our relationship with God involves us knowing that we are loved. Henri de Tourville writes so beautifully about this:
‘Think of this and say to yourself “I am loved by God more than I can either conceive or understand.” Let this fill all your soul and all your prayer and never leave you… Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought that God loves you with the tenderness, generosity, and an intimacy which surpasses all your dreams. Give yourself up with joy to a loving confidence in God and have courage to believe firmly that God’s action towards you is a masterpiece of partiality and love.’
If we can rest in such a belief and experience that in some way our lives are held within a divine frame then we can surrender into such love and begin to make our personal discoveries about God.
Evelyn Underhill thought that such a state of mind can be fostered by a sense of wonder and mystery. She sees acceptance of God’s love as a grace, but also thinks that our reception of such grace depends very largely on our will and our desire, and on our mental and emotional openness, and what she calls “plasticity” (long before the neuro-scientists coined the phrase). I think this means the ability to change in response to experience. She is of course an advocate of contemplative prayer which she sees as a state of mind that aims at God in and for himself, and not for anything that we might get from him. This hidden and private prayer  leads to being rooted and grounded in God’s love.
I still believe that depth psychotherapy can help reach this place – this hidden world if only because a good analytical psychologist or psychoanalyst can help to illuminate all the baggage and clutter that takes up space that could be filled by divinity… by the fullness of God. Paradoxically our spiritual strength and energy comes direct from the hidden – unconscious – source. In terms of religious life St Bernard call tapping into this source  as the “business of all businesses” because it controls all the rest and gives meaning to all the rest – it perpetually renews our contact with reality. And of course this is true anyway in life that the unconscious frames our conscious responses and makes us who we are. The more we can discover about our hidden inner world, which after all is limitless, the more we can transform our conscious self.