If we are searching for God and truth then we must have some sort of faith that something might be found otherwise we would not continue – and of course times of doubt alternate with faith. What is the point of contemplation? Is there any truth in what I think I may believe?
But our faith in something important happening when we meditate is a faith in reaching out towards the unknowable and this faith is what sustains the attention that allows a space for truth to emerge. Our attention in itself does make a difference and in how we feel about ourselves. That is why the intention of what we are doing is as important as what we do.
Michael Eigen writes about the faith needed in searching for emotional truth: ‘For better or worse, the individual who addresses this issue cannot be the same, in the long run, as one who does not.’
It is this faith that is the condition that makes both contemplation and the searching for emotional truth in psychoanalytic work possible. It is not the knowing about something but rather the being it… who we really are. So we can read about contemplation and entering the space of that experience in the same way as we might we told by an analyst or therapist about ourselves. But nothing much will really happen unless we can experience the actual truth of our emotional reality. Wilfred Bion put it like this: ‘One cannot know O, one must be it’. And ‘no psycho-analytic discovery is possible without recognition of its existence, at-one-ment with it and evolution.’
The advent of O, the ultimate reality, is something inherently intangible, invisible or ineffable…in other words we cannot just know about it, after all consciousness sees and hears but cannot be seen or heard. ‘It cannot be “known” but it can “become”. Bion sounds mystical when he writes that O emerges from darkness and formlessness when it has evolved to a point where it can be known but only through knowledge gained by experience… in other words if we have the experience we can then struggle to frame this verbally and know it.
This is so like Thomas Merton who of course wrote a great deal and for a monk talked a great deal but who always understood that what matters is not what you say or think; life is not a matter of concepts and words. It is not a question of talking or reasoning yourself into being at-one with God.
Life is opening yourself to experience – first to this experience and to that; and finally to Experience Itself. William Shannon puts it like this, ‘For him [Merton], God was the burning mystery of reality. God was the great experience beyond all experiences.’