Hacking away at the coal
All the great contemplative traditions of the world agree that contemplative prayer – Buddhist enlightenment or Bodhi, Hindu advaita, Sufi muaraqabah, Christian union with God – is a reaching into the darkness patiently seeking the love of absolutely nothing, beyond images. words, logic, thoughts, reason. It is thought provoking too that cosmological scientists like Hawking and Krauss are now telling us that there was no great manufacturer of the universe beyond the sky but the universe too emerged spontaneously out of nothing. It’s tedious and hard work, a bit like a miner hacking away at a seam of coal in the absolute darkness, only faintly illumined by the lamp of consciousness. I’m reading a book about St Teresa of Avila, I’m a million miles away from the ecstasies and visions she says she experienced. On the other hand, it’s so personally meaningful I can’t give it up either, a bit like being hooked on a drug I suppose, and in your more rational moments wishing you weren’t. I’m quite open to the humanists telling me it’s just some aberration in the left lobe of my brain or sexual frustration or an imbalance in my blood sugar levels. I just don’t care. I tried joining the Humanist Association as a kind of detox but it was useless, a bit like telling you that you can’t go on the holiday of a lifetime after all so make the best of living in the suburbs of Watford. I just want to keep hacking away at the coal, wondering whether I shall ever see a blazing fire. Perhaps we should think of contemplative prayer as the sibling of cosmological science, also absolutely fascinating and full of mystery and incomprehensible darkness.