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A Living Response


tariki
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Is it possible for any human being to genuinely respond spontaneously to life, and not just as "programmed" by what could be called our "life of learning" ?

 

This prompted by these words of Thomas Merton....

 

The basic and most fundamental problem of the spiritual life is this acceptance of our hidden and dark self, with which we tend to identify all the evil that is in us. We must learn by discernment to separate the evil growth of our actions from the good ground of the soul. And we must prepare that ground so that a new life can grow up from within us, beyond our knowledge and beyond our conscious control. The sacred attitude is then one of reverence, awe, and silence before the mystery that begins to take place within us, when we become aware of our inmost self. In silence, hope, expectation, and unknowing, the person of faith abandons themselves to the divine will: not as to an arbitrary and magic power whose decrees must be spelled out from cryptic cyphers, but as to the stream of reality and of life itself. The sacred attitude is then one of deep and fundamental respect for the real in whatever form it may present itself. The secular attitude is one of gross disrespect for reality, upon which the worldly mind seeks only to force its own crude patterns. The secular person is a slave of their own prejudices, preconceptions, and limitations. The person of faith is ideally free from prejudice and pliable in their uninhibited response to each new movement of the stream of life. I say "ideally" in order to exclude those whose faith is not pure but is also another form of prejudice enthroned in the exterior self - a preconceived opinion rather than a living responsiveness to the logos of each new situation. For there exists a kind of "hard" and rigid religious faith that is not really alive or spiritual, but resides entirely in the exterior self and is the product of conventionalism and systematic prejudice.

 

(Please note that as far as I am concerned, Merton's seemingly hard and fast distinction between the "sacred" and the "secular" grates slightly on my own sensitivities, hopefully the thread will not be sidetracked.....)

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Tariki wrote: Is it possible for any human being to genuinely respond spontaneously to life, and not just as "programmed" by what could be called our "life of learning" ?

 

 

I'm not sure I'm understanding this question, particularly as relevant to the Merton quote you posted.

 

To me, it seems impossible for a human to genuinely respond spontaneously to life, without involvment of what is "programmed" by our "life of learning." I don't think most animals can even do that, higher forms, anyway...maybe an ameoba, but not even sure about that. Even an ameoba might learn something from its experiences within its environment, that it then applies as "learning" that will inlfuence subsequent responses. Before we can 'respond" we must "percieve" and even our very perceptions are founded upon learning. We even have to learn through experiences in our life of learning to "see" as we think of it...we have to learn to make sense of what begins as just an undifferentiated blast of sensory stimuli.

 

Jenell

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No I don't think it is. Even responses from non--senscient animals are affected my life. I would suggest that our quest for spiritual understanding is in itself a non-spontaneouse response to the life one has lived flavored by our experences.

 

Jenell, I think TM is asking if one gets rid of all our experences will our sole respond to life or God?

 

steve

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Jenell, yes, I was in a sense relating the questions here to the other thread on Mysticism. Rightly or wrongly my mind just seems to make connections, perhaps when none exist! Yet it all does seem to relate to "truth" (The Hidden Ground of Love) being more Infinite creativity, infinite potential, infinite compassion/love - spontaneous, pure freedom. And that the "fall" is our being parted from such, and becoming over involved with our own distinctions and discriminations, born of a persona/ego-self that takes itself as being the "centre", rather than uniting with the Ground.

 

A Buddhist writer speaks of "integrity", and contrast this with being carried along on a wave of psychological and social habit, of responding to moral dilemmas by merely repeating the gestures and the words of a parent, an authority figure, or a religious text. While acknowledging that such may well be necessary for social stability, it is inadequate as a paradigm of integrity.

 

Merton seemed to me to be addressing all this, in the sense ..... that a new life can grow up from within us, beyond our knowledge and beyond our conscious control.

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tariki wrote: Rightly or wrongly my mind just seems to make connections, perhaps when none exist!

 

As that is the ground out of which new ideas spring, the foundation for creativity, nothing wrong with that, as long as we follow through in testing a working out the rough edges, willing to throw them away if it turns out they don't work. An area where those with ADHD can actually have a cognitive advantage, the capacity for those 'quantam leaps'.

 

Jenell

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