Going inwards

Going inwards is one way of coping with what is happening outside. Rather than a retreat or a withdrawal I think it can be a way of balancing the destruction that we see in the external world with creativity in the inner one.

William Johnston, Catholic and Zen mystic and writer who lived and worked in Japan for most of his life quotes the idea of ‘the shift to interiority’ – following Jesus who tells us to go into our room and pray in secret this is the inner room that the Indus call ‘the cave of the heart’. In our deepest being we will meet our Father. He also refers to John 7 verse 38. In the NRSV it reads: ‘out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’ which in the St James’ version is translated as ‘he that believeth in me, as the Scriptures hath said, out of his [her] belly shall flow rives of living water.’ Johnston imagines a stout Japanese bodhisattva sitting ‘gloriously in the lotus posture while rivers of ki (energy) flow from his hara or tanden (belly) to the entire universe’.

What happens when we go down to the true self? Johnston says we have to try and discern whether this inner voice is indeed the true self and not a vicious super ego. It is here that knowledge of the unconscious can play a part.

Johnston distinguishes or discusses the idea of ‘ordinary prayer’ which takes place from our own efforts assisted by ordinary grace and then occasional times of ‘extraordinary prayer’ that is a gift and a grace from God. Practicing ordinary prayer leads to acquired contemplation and Johnston found this was very common in Japan where there was this level of awareness. It has been acquired through the different rituals such as the way of tea, and the way of Zen. ‘These so-called ways (Japanese do and in Chinese tao) are among the richest flowers of Sino-Japanese culture.’

The deeper that we can go into the cave of the heart then human effort becomes less and less necessary because of the action of God … ‘and then there comes ‘infused contemplation’ which is pure gift.’