Concerning the Inner Life 3

One of the fruits of both psychotherapy and contemplation is a realisation of something – a life and a spirit – within us that exceeds our own conscious reality. For those of us who are religious this is God, for those who would be uncomfortable with that word but have experienced good depth psychotherapy or analytical psychology then the realisation of the power of the collective unconscious and the archetypes potentially offers the same experience. Both experiences of being in touch with something more than ourselves imply a sense of being alive and alive in this sense means to be growing and changing with an ability to endure and to go on enduring strains, conflicts and difficulties incident to development.
Evelyn Underhill quotes her spiritual director Baron von Hugel when he writes, “the soul is a force or an energy: and holiness is the growth of that energy in love, in full being, in creative, spiritual personality.” We are invited to change, and to grow in a full and generous response to our environment and to God. Sometimes everything seems so terribly predictable, and part of what is predictable is a sense of the disaster and chaos in the world and the feeling that things don’t get better despite all the promises from the politicians and the adverts. In fact we can be left with a sense of pessimism and cynicism. We are faced with that in our own lives as options seem to restrict and we get older. Yet what we are offered through God and our deepening and growing awareness of the inner life and the secret life of prayer is a sense always of great unreached possibilities which await the fully-expanded human soul. In other words the unconscious and the more than ourselves are words that we use for the tremendous powers that can absolutely transform both individually and collectively. It is about having some contact with the eternal realities which in turn leads to transforming outward expressions and supports.
Underhill writes about the beauty from within and the degree in which we can either exhibit or apprehend that beauty depends on our own inward state. She ends her first presentation with a story from one of the apocryphal gospels about the infancy of the child Jesus who picking up the clay sparrows with which the other children were playing, threw them into the air, where they became living birds. She says that as a legend we can see this as an absurdity but as a spiritual parable it is profoundly true. With Christ nothing is impossible and all can be changed.
I very much like this extract from St Augustine’s Confessions where he describes how despite his longing for God at first he could not see that there was something to see: “I found myself far from you in the land of false images”. The way he found through to “enjoy” God was through being called by “the Mediator between God and humankind, the man Jesus Christ” and then he so beautifully writes: “Late did I love you, Beauty ever ancient and ever new, late did I love you! You were within me and I was outside. I sought you there, and in my ugliness rushed about among the beautiful things you had made. You were with me but I was not with you… You called and shouted and broke through my deafness.”